Cameroon frees BBC pair after six days

Two BBC reporters held under house arrest in Cameroon for six days were released by the West African country’s military last Friday, following appeals by the corporation and the South African government.

South African Farouk Chothia, a producer with the BBC African Service, and Cameroonian reporter Ange Ngu Thomas were on assignment in the Bakassi Peninsular – the subject a border dispute between Cameroon and neighbouring Nigeria – when they were arrested on 11 July and accused of spying. According to the BBC, the journalists were covering the run-up to the withdrawal of Nigerian troops from the region by 15 September, and were in the area in the knowledge of the local authorities.

Soldiers confiscated their sound equipment, passports, and authorisation papers before placing them under house arrest in a hotel in Limbe, about 120 miles from Cameroon’s capital Yaounde.

Jerry Timmins, head of the BBC’s Africa and Middle East region, said on the Focus on Africa programme that the Cameroon High Commission in London had been “very helpful” during representations leading up to their release.

?? The journalists were in transit back to London for debriefing as Press Gazette went to press, so it was not known whether their property had been returned to them. A BBC spokesman said their release had been “unconditional”, but it has not been decided whether Chotia and Thomas will resume reporting from Bakassi after their debriefing.

By Wale Azeez

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