Monday, March 9, 2020

ALERT: the audience of Paul Chouta still postponed again

Cameroonweb whistleblower and journalist Paul Chouta's hearing scheduled for Monday, March 09, 2020 has just been postponed to April 20 for citation. The accused and his counsel are surprised by this decision. In pre-trial detention since 11 June 2019, the journalist has never been heard on the merits of the case. The complainant, the writer Calixte Beyala who accused her of defamation, never appeared at previous hearings. Paul Chouta, whose days have been in danger at Kondengui central prison since he was the victim of an attempted poisoning must now live in fear of losing his wife and his small family.

In fact, according to several concordant sources, Stella Tchoss, Paul Chouta's fiancĂ©e was violently attacked by individuals not far from her home; his purse containing his mobile phone, money and personal effects was taken by the kidnappers. 

A few days before the incident, the lady feared for her safety. She suspected that people prowled around her house and even around her daughter's school every time she went to take her to school. 

Accused of defamation, Paul Chouta was liable to a maximum of six months' imprisonment in accordance with Cameroonian law. Indeed, the penal code of Cameroon stipulates in its article 305: "Punished with imprisonment from six days to six months and a fine of 5,000 to 2 million francs or one of these two penalties only whoever, by one of the means provided for in article 152, prejudices the honor or the consideration of a person by imputing directly or to him facts of which he cannot adduce proof. " This article also specifies that "(2) These penalties also apply to authors of defamation committed by the written press, radio or television, without prejudice to the right of reply or the duty to rectify". 

However Paul Chouta soon does 10 less in prison without being tried. Her hearings were postponed eight times either for lack of presence of the complainant, or for unavailability of the latter's lawyer. 

In October, against all odds, the file of Paul Chouta ended up in the Court of Appeal of the Center while his lawyers never appealed. 

For several Cameroonians, the Chouta case goes beyond understanding. “Since his arrival in this prison, nothing has changed with regard to his procedure. For good reason, the successive dismissals of his audience suggest an obvious delay, ”wrote journalist Boris Bertolt.

An injustice condemned by all 

All international organizations defending freedom of expression are unanimous; Paul Chouta is the victim of an injustice and must be released unconditionally. Reporters Without Borders (RSF), Commitee to Protect Journalist (CPJ), Pen International are, among others, the organizations that unsuccessfully demanded the release of the journalist and whistleblower. 

At the end of January, the main opponent of the President of the Republic, Maurice Kamto also spoke to the international press about the Chouta case. “There is a case that we cannot forget which is that of Paul Chouta. He was arrested in the context of a dispute between him and a writer. It is the first time that I have seen someone detained in custody for a long time on grounds of defamation, "said the imminent lawyer and law teacher. 

According to the French newspaper, President Emmanuel Macron was also asked for the release of the Cameroonian journalist. 

“BAS activists would like the French president to intervene in particular to get a web journalist, Paul Chouta, out of prison. He has been under provisional arrest warrant for almost a year at the Kondengui prison, in YaoundĂ©. Previously, Reporters Without Borders tried unsuccessfully to secure his release, "the newspaper wrote.