The Director-General of UNESCO Audrey Azoulay has called on the authorities of Cameroon to investigate the death in detention of broadcast journalist Samuel Wazizi who had been imprisoned since August 2, 2019.
Wazizi was arrested for criticising the government’s handling of a separatist revolt and died while still in detention in mysterious circumstances.
After his arrest, his family and his lawyers were not allowed any contact with him or given any information, according to rights group Reporters Without Borders (RSF).
“I am deeply concerned about the circumstances surrounding the death of Samuel Wazizi. I call on the authorities to shed light on the events that led to Wazizi’s demise and ensure that any contravention to his rights as a journalist and as a detainee are brought to justice,” said Azoulay.
Wazizi, a presenter on Chillen Media Television (CMTV), died in a military hospital in Yaoundé.
According to the statement by RSF, a senior military officer said the journalist had been “ill” but gave no further details.
“We call on the Cameroonian authorities to end the intolerable silence around this case, to return the journalist’s body to his family, and to conduct a thorough, independent investigation to establish the chain of responsibility and circumstances leading to this tragedy,” said RSF.
According to Cameroon’s army, Wazizi died in detention “as a result of severe sepsis” on August 17, 2019. This was 15 days after his arrest, and the matter has been kept a secret since then.
The army said that Wazizi was coordinating logistics for separatist fighters. Separatist fighters have been fighting for the Anglophone speakers in Cameroon, who are the minority.
Separatists in the Anglophone territories of Northwest Region and Southwest Region (collectively known as Southern Cameroons) declared the independence of Ambazonia and began fighting against the Government of Cameroon.
The war has killed approximately 3,000 people and forced more than half a million people to flee their homes, according to online sources.