International PEN protests the detention of newspaper journalist and publisher Lewis Medjo, who has been held since September 22, 2008, on charges of “publishing false news.” Medjo’s trial has been postponed twice, most recently until January 2, 2009, by which time he will have been held for more than 100 days. PEN believes that Medjo’s detention is connected to his critical reporting, in violation of his to freedom of expression. It calls on the Cameroonian authorities to release him immediately, and for assurances that he is not being charged in violation of his rights as guaranteed under Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. PEN notes that Medjo is the second writer to be detained in recent months and fears that these arrests may indicate a deterioration in the climate for free expression in the country.

Background Information

On September 22, 2008, Lewis Medjo, journalist and publisher of the weekly newspaper Détente Libre, was arrested by the head of the provincial judiciary police as he left a dinner organized by a central government representative in the Cameroon capital Douala. He was taken to the judiciary police headquarters in Douala and questioned about two August 14 articles.

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. He 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.

On November 7 the trial was again postponed, this time on procedural grounds, until January 2, 2009. The judge reportedly stated that he needed 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 in January.

Medjo is the second writer to be imprisoned in Cameroon this year. On September 24, 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 his sentence was in fact connected to his critical lyrics, in violation of his right to freedom of expression. PEN called for Mbanga’s release on October 7.

Write A Letter

  •  Protesting the detention of newspaper journalist and publisher Lewis Medjo, who has been held since September 22, 2008, on charges of “publishing false news,” and the postponement of his trial until January 2, 2009.
  • Expressing concern that 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 signatory.
  • Calling on the authorities to release Medjo immediately, either on bail pending trial if there is concrete evidence of his alleged crime, or to release him unconditionally.

Send Your Letter To

President Paul Biya
Fax: +237 22 22 08 70
cellcom@prc.cm
Messages may also be sent via the Presidency’s web site

Minister of Justice
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 check with PEN if sending appeals after December 12, 2008: ftw[at]pen.org