International PEN protests the three-year prison sentence and fine given to newspaper journalist and publisher Lewis Medjo on January 7, 2009 for allegedly “publishing false news” about President Biya. Medjo had already been detained for three and a half months prior to his conviction. PEN believes that the sentence is due to his critical reporting, in violation of his right to freedom of expression, and calls on the Cameroonian authorities to release him immediately and unconditionally. 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 Information

On January 7, 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 organized by a central government representative in the Cameroonian capital, Douala, on the evening of September 22, 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 September 26, 2008, when he appeared before a public prosecutor who issued a formal order for his detention. He was then transferred to Doula central prison in western Cameroon. His trial was postponed in October and again in November “for administrative reasons.”

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

Medjo is the second writer to be imprisoned in Cameroon in recent months. On September 24, 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.

Write A Letter

  • Protesting the three-year prison sentence and fine given to newspaper journalist and publisher Lewis Medjo on January 7, 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 PEN believes stems from his lyrics critical of the government, particularly a song he wrote criticizing controversial constitutional amendments;
  • Expressing the belief that both sentences are in violation of the writers’ right to freedom of expression, 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;
  • Calling on the authorities to release Medjo and Mbanga immediately and unconditionally.

Send Your Letter To

President President Paul Biya
Fax: +237 22 22 08 70
Email: cellcom@prc.cm
>> Send a message online

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

Please copy appeals to the diplomatic representative for Cameroon in your country if possible.

Please send appeals immediately. Check with PEN if sending appeals after March 14, 2009: ftw[at]pen.org