May 6, 2010

President Paul Biya
Fax: +237 22 22 08 70

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

Your Excellencies,

On behalf of the 3,400 members of PEN American Center, an international organization of writers dedicated to protecting freedom of expression wherever it is threatened, we are writing to express our serious concern regarding the death of journalist and editor Germain S. Ngota Ngota in prison.

According to our information, Germain S. Ngota Ngota, journalist and editor of the bimonthly Cameroon Express, was found dead on April 22, 2010, in Kondegui prison in Yaoundé. According to local journalists, he was being detained in the Kosovo ward of the prison, where hardcore felons are held. Ngota, widely known by his nickname, Bibi, had reportedly complained of fatigue, gout, and joint pain. Ngota also suffered from high blood pressure and a hernia. Despite repeated requests by his family and colleagues, authorities failed to provide Ngota with necessary medical treatment.

Ngota was one of three journalists imprisoned since February 2010 because of their investigations into corruption allegations involving top presidential aide Laurent Esso and the state-run oil company SNH. Reportedly, authorities have not addressed claims by reporter Simon Hervé Nko’o of the weekly Bebela that security agents used psychological and physical torture to force the journalists—including Ngota—to reveal their source for a document on which the allegations were based.

PEN American Center is deeply troubled by the prison conditions in which Germain S. Ngota Ngota was kept, and we therefore call for a full, prompt, and impartial investigation into his death. We are also seriously concerned about the rising climate of harassment and abuse of journalists in Cameroon, especially those who investigate government affairs, in violation of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights and Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Cameroon is a signatory. We therefore call on the government of President Paul Biya to hold members of his administration accountable for using security forces and criminal laws to settle scores with the media, and urge the government to initiate reforms that would refer matters of defamation to civil courts.

Thank you for your consideration of this urgent matter.

Hannah Pakula                   
Chair, Freedom to Write Committee                 

Larry Siems
Director, Freedom to Write and International Programs

CC: H. E. Ambassador Joseph Charles Foe-Atangana
Embassy of the Republic of Cameroon
2349 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20008
Fax: (202) 387-3826

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