Thursday, March 25, 2010

Letter to the president

His Excellency Paul Biya
President of the Republic of Cameroon
Yaoundé, Cameroon

17 March 2010

Your Excellency,

We are writing on behalf of the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers and the World Editors Forum, which represent 18,000 publications, 15,000 online sites and over 3,000 companies in more than 120 countries, to strongly protest against a wave of arrests of and attacks on more than a dozen journalists reporting on matters of public interest.

According to reports, three journalists were arrested on 5 February and later detained in Yaoundé on charges of "imitating the signature of a member of government", an offence which carries up to 15 years of in prison. Editors Harrys Robert Mintya of Le Devoir, Bibi Ngota of Cameroon Express and Serge Sabouang of La Nation were detained after investigating the state-run National Hydrocarbons Company's purchase of a ship named Rio Del Rey. The journalists had reportedly obtained a copy of a document authorising illegal payments in connection with the transaction. Simon Hervé Nko'o, a reporter for the weekly Bebela, was also reportedly held for a week without charge in connection with the investigation. We are seriously concerned at reports that Mr Nko'o was tortured to reveal his sources.

We are also concerned by the harassment of at least eight other journalists who have raised questions about Operation Sparrowhawk, an investigation into the state mismanagement of public funds, including: Spectrum TV Editor-in-Chief Thierry Ngogang; freelance journalist Alex Gustave Azebaze; reporter Anani Rabier Bindzi of Canal 2 International; journalist Jean-Marc Soboth, journalist and press freedom activist; The Post Editor-in-Chief Charly Ndi Chia; Yerima Kini Nsom of The Post; Nadège Christelle Bowa of Le Messager; and Justin Blaise Akono of Le Messager;

We respectfully remind you that jailing, prosecuting and intimidating journalists constitutes a clear breach of the right to freedom of expression, which is guaranteed by numerous international conventions, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Furthermore, the jailing of journalists for carrying out their profession contradicts the principles of the Declaration of Table Mountain, issued by our organisations at the 60th World Newspaper Congress and 14th World Editors Forum Conference in Cape Town, South Africa, in June 2007.

We respectfully call on you to ensure that all journalists detained in Cameroon for carrying out their profession are immediately released from jail and that all intimidation is halted. We urge you to take all necessary steps to ensure that in future Cameroon fully respects international standards of freedom of expression.

We look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience.

Yours sincerely,

Gavin O'Reilly
World Association of Newspapers

Xavier Vidal-Folch
World Editors Forum

WAN-IFRA is the global organization for the world's newspapers and news publishers, with formal representative status at the United Nations, UNESCO and the Council of Europe. The organization groups 18,000 publications, 15,000 online sites and over 3,000 companies in more than 120 countries.

cc: Faith Pansy Tlakula, African Commission Special Rapporteur on Freedom
of Expression

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