Cameroon journalist freed after state security charge

A journalist and television presenter from Cameroon’s restive anglophone region was released on Saturday after being detained on charges of “attacking state security”, her employer said.

Mimi Mefo, who heads English news for privately-owned Equinoxe broadcasting, was charged by a military tribunal on Wednesday and placed in preventive detention in the commercial capital Douala, lawyer Alice Nkom said.

The station said she left prison on Saturday and broadcast images of her returning to her home with colleagues.

“It is the head of state who personally decided to stop the prosecution in a gesture of magnanimity,” said army spokesman Colonel Didier Badjeck.

“This does not mean, far from it, that this journalist is innocent,” he added.

Mefo was charged over a social media post which said the army was responsible for the death of US missionary Charles Trumann Wesco who died in October after an attack in the English-speaking North West region, her lawyer said.

Nkom said her client had also posted the government’s version of what happened — that Wesco had died after a raid by anglophone separatists.

“Her innocence is established and the proof that her imprisonment was planned is overwhelming,” said the National Union of Cameroon Journalists.

Eighty percent of Cameroon’s population are French speakers while the rest are anglophones, who are concentrated in the country’s troubled west.

In 2016, resentment at perceived discrimination fanned demands for autonomy in the North West and neighbouring South West regions. Radicals declared an independent state called the “Republic of Ambazonia” and afterwards took up arms soon after.

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Separatists have since attacked troops and police, boycotted and torched schools and attacked other state symbols, prompting a brutal official crackdown.

At least 400 civilians and 175 police and soldiers have been killed this year, according to an NGO. More than 300 000 other have fled the violence, some crossing into neighbouring Nigeria.

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