(AFP) – Apr 29, 2010
YAOUNDE — Cameroon's government on Thursday said the death of a detained journalist was caused by an infection linked to the HIV virus, a statement that has been rejected by the editor's family.
The head of the United Nations cultural organisation UNESCO also expressed concern at his death and called for an investigation.
Bibi Ngota, managing editor of the Cameroun Express, died last week at Kondengui prison in Yaounde.
He had suffered from high blood pressure and a slipped disc before he was detained on March 10 on charges of fraud.
Media rights groups said he had been denied medical attention.
Ngota "died following opportunistic infections in the context of a completely overwhelmed immune system," spokesman Issa Bakary Tchiroma told state radio quoting a doctor's report.
Tests had revealed that Ngota was HIV positive, he added.
Bruno Ntede, Ngota's brother, rejected the statement.
"I am absolutely outraged. The government is telling stories. The truth of his death is far from what the government says," he said.
The statement from the government spokesman came just days after it had ordered a judicial inquiry into the journalist's death.
Irina Bokova, the Director-General of UNESCO, on Thursday issued a statement saying she was "grieved" at the death of Ngota.
"The detention and death of journalists represents a loss for any society; the loss of a pair of eyes and of a voice that can inform the public about issues that concern us all," she said.
"I trust that the authorities will do all they can to shed light on this tragic death and on the conditions" of his detention, her statement concluded.
Government spokesman Issa Tchiroma Bakaray said earlier that Ngota had received intensive medical care at the prison.
Ngota was among three journalists charged with fraud and using forged documents and detained in Yaounde's central prison in March.
Serges Sabouang, Robert Mintsa, respectively the managing editors of La Nation and Le Devoir, as well as Ngota had allegedly copied the signature of President Paul Biya's secretary general, Laurent Esso, on documents "which they used to blackmail him" in a bid to obtain money.
They faced between 10 and 20 years in prison.
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