November 13, 2008

President Paul Biya
Fax: +237 22 22 08 70

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

Your Excellencies,

On behalf of the 3,300 members of PEN American Center, an international organization of writers dedicated to protecting freedom of expression wherever it is threatened, we are writing to protest the detention of journalist and publisher Lewis Medjo.

According to our information, on September 22, 2008, Lewis Medjo was arrested by the head of the provincial judiciary police as he left a dinner organized by a central government representative in Douala. He was taken to the judiciary police headquarters and questioned about two articles published in his weekly newspaper Détente Libre on August 14. One of the pieces reportedly stated that President Biya was going to force the president of the Supreme Court, apparently a loyal ally of Biya’s, to stand down next year. The other carried allegations that the head of the national police criminal investigation department tried to bribe a wealthy businessman for the return of his son’s passport. Medjo was charged with “publishing false information” and appeared before a public prosecutor on September 26, when a formal order for his detention was issued. He was then transferred to New Bell prison near Douala. Medjo appeared before a judge again on October 3, but the case was adjourned until November 7, reportedly for “administrative reasons” to do with his civil status. The trial was postponed until January 2, 2009, reportedly to give the plaintiffs—as yet unidentified—time to obtain the necessary court orders. Medjo remains detained and will have spent 103 days in detention by the start of his trial.

PEN American Center is seriously concerned that Lewis Medjo’s detention is connected to his critical reporting, in violation of his right to freedom of expression as guaranteed by the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Cameroon is a signatory. We therefore respectfully call for his immediate and unconditional release, as well as the release of all others held in violation of their right to freedom of expression.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.


Hannah Pakula                   
Chair, Freedom to Write Committee   

Larry Siems
Director, Freedom to Write and International Programs

CC: H.E. Mr. Jerome Mendouga
Ambassador of the Republic of Cameroon to the U.S.
2349 Massachusetts Avenue
N.W. Washington D.C. 20008
Fax: (202) 387-3826

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