Sunday, March 19, 2006

More controversy as publisher of top 50 lists bags jail sentence

More controversy as publisher of top 50 lists bags jail sentence

T

he hunters have become the hunted in the saga pitching Jean-Pierre Amougou Belinga the publisher of L’Anecdote against Gregoire Owono, Minister Delegate at the Presidency Incharge of Relations with the Assemblies. Belinga was dragged to Court on February 14 by Owona on defamatory charges.

Belinga had published the Minister’s name in his tabloid L’Anecdote of January 24 among a list of 50 presumed homosexuals. The list had sent electric waves throughout the country and the intensity will intensify when on the opening day of the hearings Amougou and his crew showed up in Court with a small T.V. screen and deck.

The excited public literally hailed Amougou as God sent to rid society of sexual deviants in high places. The turn out of the crowds was formidable, but barely had Owona’s lawyers fired the opening shots, L’Anecdote publisher’s tone piped down. It started dawning on the public that there may be no hard evidence after all.

The crowds which had avidly laid siege on the Yaounde Court of First Instance started to dwindle. Confirmation of Beti patriarchs meeting during which Amougou is said to have apologized to Owona, though Amougou refuted, did not improve matters. Doubts were created in public minds and frustration in groups and other devil’s advocates who had ganged up to defend Amougou.

When time for evidence came, many fears were confirmed. An inaudible audio cassette with an inaudible voice, purported to be one Thierry from Douala, was all that emanated from Amougou and defense lawyers earlier rantings that they possessed tons of visual proofs and testimonies. The public sympathizers and growing fans were embarrassed and questioned the validity of journalists as a whole.

On March 3, Amougou was slammed a four month jail sentence and I million fine for defamation. The aggrieved Owona who had cried in court in quest of his innocence requested only one symbolic franc for the damages caused him. However, the judgment ordered Amougou to publish apologies widely or face a 300.000FCFA each day he defaulted.

Owona said the moment for him to re-establish his equilibum after the L’Anecdote assault on his moral being had come but incidentally, his travails may just have begun because Amougou has sought and obtained an appeal on the case.

There continues to be much controversy surrounding the case. What happened to the TV screen and deck the Amougou camp appeared with on day one? Did the Beti patriarch meeting have a bearing on the case? Why were the Beti Patriarchs anxious to settle the matter out of court? Questions are many.

Amougou was absent from Court during sentence. Why was no arrest warrant issued after the sentence. The brevity of the trial continue to raise eye-brows in many ranks but the biggest victims in the opera remain the journalists. Pundits hold that to have made such outrageous publications without ocular proofs constituted an affront on the very ethics of the journalism practice, the public and the nation. However, the appeal is on course and Amougou may still have an ace up his sleave or else leave an indelible smear on Cameroon Journalism.

Owona on his part has gained credit, being ready to face the public to absolve his name and prove his innocence. His peers have gone underground, silence can mean many things.

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