Cameroon: Newspaper publisher sentenced to three years

English PEN protests the three-year prison sentence and fine given to newspaper journalist and publisher Lewis Medjo on 7 January 2009.

 

According to our information, on 7 January 2009, Lewis Medjo, journalist and publisher of the Douala weekly Détente Libre, was found guilty of “spreading false news” in relation to an article about President Biya and was sentenced to three years in prison and a fine of approximately Euro 3,000. He had already been detained for three and a half months.

 

Medjo was arrested by the head of the provincial judiciary police as he left a dinner organised by a central government representative in the Cameroon capital Douala on the evening of 22 September 2008. He was taken to the judiciary police headquarters in Douala where he was questioned about two articles published that August. One of the pieces reportedly stated that President Biya was going to force the first president of the Supreme Court, a loyal ally of Biya’s, to take early retirement in 2009.

 

Medjo was charged with “publishing false information” and held in police custody until 26 September 2008, when he appeared before a public prosecutor who issued a formal order for his detention. He was then transferred to Douala central prison in the west of Cameroon. His trial was postponed in October and again in November “for administrative reasons”.

 

On 7 January 2009, Medjo was found guilty as charged, in relation to the first piece on President Biya. His lawyers have appealed the sentence.

 

English PEN believes that the sentence is due to his critical reporting, and as such is in violation of his right to freedom of expression. We are therefore calling on the Cameroonian authorities to release him immediately and unconditionally. English PEN notes that Medjo is the second writer in Cameroon to receive a prison sentence in recent months and fears that these arrests indicate a deterioration of free expression in the country.

 

Background:



Medjo is the second writer to be imprisoned in Cameroon in recent months. On 24 September 2008, almost six months after his arrest and detention, the Cameroonian singer-songwriter Lapiro de Mbanga (real name Pierre Roger Lambo Sandjo) was sentenced to three years in prison for allegedly taking part in anti-government riots. Mbanga is known as an outspoken critic of the government, both as a songwriter and an opposition party member and there are fears that the sentence was in fact connected to his critical lyrics, in violation of his right to freedom of expression. For more information on this case, please click here.  In November 2008, Mbanga was one of the recipients of the Oxfam/Novib PEN Emergency Fund Award given in The Hague, the Netherlands.

 

Please send appeals:



– Protesting the three-year prison sentence and fine given to newspaper journalist and publisher Lewis Medjo on 7 January 2009 for allegedly “publishing false news” about President Biya;
– Protesting the continuing detention of singer-songwriter Lapiro de Mbanga (real name Pierre Roger Lambo Sandjo), also sentenced to three years in prison in September 2008 for allegedly taking part in anti-government riots, a conviction that English PEN believes stems from his lyrics critical of the government, particularly a song he wrote criticising controversial constitutional amendments;
– Calling on the authorities to release Medjo and Mbanga immediately and unconditionally, in accordance with their right to freedom of expression, as guaranteed by the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Cameroon is party;

 

Appeals to:

 

President Paul Biya
Fax: 237 22 22 08 70
cellcom@prc.cm
Messages may also be sent via the Presidency’s website: http://www.prc.cm/index_fr.php?link=messenger/write_pr

 

Minister of Justice
Mr. Amadou Ali
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Justice 
Fax: 237 22 23 00 05

 

Please also send copies of your appeal to Cameroonian diplomatic representatives in the UK:

 

His Excellency Ekanye Nkwelle
84 Holland Park
London
W11 3SB 

Originally posted with the url: www.englishpen.org/writersinprison/bulletins/cameroonnewspaperpublishersentencedtothreeyears/

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