EXTERNAL AI Index: AFR 17/03/97
17 March 1997
Further information (8) on UA 250/96 (AFR 17/06/96, 31 October 1996) and
follow-ups AFR 17/08/96, 12 November, AFR 17/09/96, 15 November, AFR 17/11/96,
11 December, AFR 17/12/96, 13 December, AFR 17/13/96, 18 December, AFR 17/01/97
14 January, AFR 17/02/97, 23 January - Prisoner of conscience / Fear of further
prisoners of conscience
Eyoum Ngangué, a journalist working for the independent newspaper Le Messager
and its satirical supplement, Le Messager Popoli, is still imprisoned at the
Central Prison, New-Bell, in Douala. He had been arrested on 22 January 1997,
after having been sentenced in early October 1996 by the Court of Appeal in
Douala to a one-year prison sentence and a fine of 300,000 CFA francs.
Both Eyoum Ngangué and the chief editor of Le Messager, Pius Njawe, were
originally sentenced only to fines on charges relating to an article which
appeared in Le Messager Popoli in December 1995. However, the Court of Appeal
increased their sentences to fines and prison terms. They were convicted of
insulting the President of the Republic and members of the National Assembly
("outrage par injure fait au Président de la République ainsi qu'aux membres
de l'Assemblée nationale"). Both journalists appealed against their
conviction and sentence to the Supreme Court.
Pius Njawe was arrested on 29 October 1996 and imprisoned in New Bell Prison.
On 15 November, he was released conditionally (liberté provisoire), following
a Supreme Court ruling the previous day.
Eyoum Ngangué's appeal has not yet been heard by the Supreme Court. His brother,
Eyoum Ndoumbé, a journalist working for the government-owned Cameroon Tribune
newspaper, was reported to have been suspended from his post after appealing
for his brother's release.
Freedom of expression is increasingly under attack in Cameroon and repression
of the press appears likely to intensify as legislative and presidential
elections approach. Legislative elections scheduled for early March 1997 have
been postponed; a new date has not yet been set. Presidential elections are
scheduled for October 1997. In addition to Pius Njawe and Eyoum Ngangué, some
seven other journalists were convicted of criminal offences and sentenced to
prison terms during 1996. Others were arrested and detained for short periods
before being released without charge. Amnesty International is concerned that
the legal system is being used to prosecute journalists solely because of their
opposition to the government and for exercising their right to freedom of
FURTHER RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send one more round of appeals in French,
English or your own language:
- expressing concern about the continuing imprisonment of Eyoum Ngangué;
- urging his immediate and unconditional release if, as it appears, he has
been detained solely for exercising his right to freedom of expression;
- adding concern that some nine journalists were sentenced to prison terms
during 1996 and several others detained without charge;
- reminding the government of Cameroon of its obligations to guarantee the
right to freedom of expression under Article 19 of the International Covenant
on Civil and Political Rights which it ratified in 1984.