September 15, 2010

President Paul Biya
Fax: +237 22 22 08 70

Mr. Philemon Yang, Prime Minister
Fax: +237 22 23 57 35

Your Excellencies:

On behalf of the 3,500 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 grave concern regarding the rapidly declining health of editor Robert Mintya.

According to our information, on August 8, 2010, Robert Mintya, editor of the newspaper Le Devoir, was attacked and beaten by another prison inmate until he lost consciousness. He was admitted to the Kondengui prison infirmary, and was then transferred to Yaoundé Central Hospital on August 25. However, he reportedly has only limited access to medical care. We are alarmed by the similarity of this case to that of Cameroun Express editor Germain “Bibi” Ngota Ngota, who died in prison on August 22 due to a lack of needed medical care.

Mintya was first arrested in early February 2010, for his investigation of allegations of corruption involving Laurent Esso, Secretary General of the President’s Office, and of the state-run oil company National Hydrocarbons Company (SNH), of which Esso is board chairman. Mintya was released and rearrested on February 26 on charges of forging Esso’s signature in a document and using it in an attempt to discredit him. Serge Sabouang, editor of La Nation, Ngota Ngota, and Simon Hervé Nko’o, journalist for Bebela, were arrested under the same charges. Mintya was reportedly told that he would be freed if he signed a statement saying that he had been led astray, and he subsequently wrote a number of letters to Esso apologizing for the forgery. Despite this, Myinta remains in prison. Mintya and Sabouang reportedly face up to 20 years in prison if convicted. The whereabouts of Nko’o, who is now said to have forged the document in question, are still not known.

We fear that the climate for freedom of expression in Cameroon has deteriorated considerably in recent years. Singer-songwriter Lapiro de Mbanga (a.k.a. Pierre Roger Lambo Sandjo) has been imprisoned since September 2008 for having allegedly taken part in an anti-government riot, however it is believed that he is instead being punished for his critical views. Lewis Medjo, publisher of La Détente Libre, was released from prison on May 16, 2010, after serving 20 months for allegedly “publishing false news” about President Biya. According to Medjo, since his release, he has been questioned and threatened by police about his sources for an article. Some of his colleagues have also reported threats since his release.

PEN American Center is seriously concerned for the well-being of Robert Mintya, and we urge authorities to ensure that he receives any and all medical care he requires. We believe that Mintya, Serge Sabouang, and Lapiro de Mbanga, have been imprisoned solely for their critical views in direct violation of their right to freedom of expression. We therefore call for their immediate and unconditional release in accordance with Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and we also call for end to the harassment of Lewis Medjo and all other journalists in Cameroon.

Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.


Hannah Pakula                     
Chair, Freedom to Write Committee           

Larry Siems
Director, Freedom to Write and International Programs

CC: Ambassador Joseph B. C. Foe-Atangana 
Embassy of the Republic of Cameroon
1700 Wisconsin Ave. N.W.
Washington, DC 20007
Fax:  (202) 387-3826

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