Sources: Committee to Protect Journalists & Daily Nation / The Dawn News / November 9, 2017
A Cameroonian correspondent for Radio France Internationale (RFI), Ahmed Abba, who is serving a 10-year jail term on charges related to terrorism, has won a top press freedom award.
The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) on Tuesday named Abba as one of the four journalists to be given its 2017 International Press Freedom Award. The ceremony will be on November 15, 2017 in New York City.
Ahmed Abba, a correspondent for Radio France Internationale’s (RFI) Hausa service, is serving a 10-year prison sentence on charges of “non-denunciation of terrorism” and “laundering of the proceeds of terrorist acts.” A Cameroonian military court sentenced the journalist on April 24, 2017, his lawyer, Clément Nakong, told CPJ. Nakong said Abba is appealing the sentence.
Abba was arrested on July 30, 2015, as he left a press briefing at the office of a local governor in Maroua, the capital of Cameroon’s far north region, according to RFI. The journalist, who was taken to the capital, Yaoundé, was denied access to a lawyer until October 19, 2015, RFI told CPJ. Officials did not take a statement from Abba until November 13, more than three months after his arrest, which is against the law, according to news reports that cited his lawyers.
Abba, who went on trial on February 29, 2016, was initially charged with complicity in acts of terrorism and failure to denounce acts of terrorism, under the country’s 2014 anti-terrorism law, according to reports . After numerous court appearances and delays, a military tribunal on April 20, 2017, acquitted Abba of “apologizing for acts of terrorism” but convicted him of the two other terrorism-related charges.
RFI cited Charles Tchoungang, a lawyer for Abba, as saying that the journalist was questioned about the activities of the extremist sect Boko Haram, which has renamed itself the Islamic State in West Africa. Prosecutors said Abba did not inform authorities he had been in contact with Boko Haram. Abba pleaded not guilty on August 3, 2016.
RFI reported that Abba mostly covered refugee issues but also covered attacks carried out by Boko Haram. In a June 2016 statement RFI said Abba’s reporting is professional and called for his immediate release.