NEW YORK—The abduction and detention of Patrice Nganang, a Cameroonian-American writer, poet, and professor, demonstrates the high cost of free expression and press freedom in Cameroon, PEN America said in a statement today.

On December 7, 2017, shortly after publishing an article on the website Jeune Afrique critical of the Biya government’s approach to ongoing instability in Anglophone regions of Cameroon, Nganang was reported missing at Douala airport in Cameroon where he preparing to take a Kenya Airways flight to Harare, Zimbabwe. It was later reported that he had been detained by police. Now a US citizen, Nganang was born in  Yaoundé, Cameroon, and was educated both in Cameroon and in Germany. He received his Ph.D. in Comparative Literature and is currently a professor at Stony Brook University in New York State, where he teaches Cultural Studies and Comparative Literature.

Investigating corruption or commenting unfavorably on political or human rights issues frequently results in official repercussions for writers and journalists in Cameroon. Nganang is only the latest example of a string of writers commenting on sensitive subjects who risk police questioning, lawsuits, detention, or imprisonment.

“Detaining an important independent voice like Patrice Nganang, who has used his writing to investigate the consequences of violence, is indicative of a movement by the government to silence all political criticism and dismantle the right to free expression,” said Karin Deutsch Karlekar, PEN America Director of Free Expression at Risk Programs. “We condemn Nganang’s detention and call on the Cameroonian authorities to release him unharmed immediately.”

PEN America has advocated on behalf of a number of writers and risk in Cameroon, including Enoh Meyomesse, who was released in 2015 and now lives in exile.  


PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.

Anoosh Gasparian, External Relations Coordinator: [email protected], +1.646.981.0685