Monitoring press freedom and international affairs from Mid-Missouri Public Radio and the Missouri School of Journalism

Cameroonian Government: media coverage of gay activists murder damages country’s image

After gay activist Eric Ohena Lembembe was murdered July 15, the government of Cameroon’s initial response was to blame the media for their coverage of the event.

The Washington Post reports that, instead of showing concern about the murder of Lembembe, spokesman for the government, Issa Tchiroma, said in a statement that journalists have engaged in “speculation and witch-hunting” when covering the news and have damaged the international public image of Cameroon. He also said “any interference or untruthfulness of any nature and origin, notably in terms of information rendered public and propagated by the media, can be considered a violation of judicial secrecy or provocative commentary, which is against the law”.

The body of Lembembe showed signs of torture when he was found at his home in the capital of Yaoundé: His neck and feet appeared to have been broken and his face, feet and hands had been burnt with an iron. He had been missing for two days before his friends entered his house and found him. According to the Global Dispatch, the gay activist had spoken against the threat posed by “anti-gay thugs” in Cameroon a few weeks before his death.

The Daily Beast reports Lembembe had recently been named executive director of Camfaids, a group that defends the rights of LGBT people and those infected with and affected by HIV/AIDS, and one of his goals was changing the injustice in Cameroon for gay people.

The United Nations has called for a more proper investigation on the crime, so the murderers are brought to justice and also reacted against the attitude of the Cameroonian government.

The Associated Press reports that gay sex is illegal in Cameroon, and anyone found guilty could be sentenced to prison for five years. Human Rights Watch says the country pursues more anti-gay prosecutions than any other country in Africa.

Freedom House says Cameroon is a non-free country in terms of media freedom and ranks it 150 out of 197 countries.

By Elisa López Aguado. 

Monitoring press freedom and international affairs from Mid-Missouri Public Radio and the Missouri School of Journalism.
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