His Excellency Paul Biya
President of the Republic of Cameroon
28 April 2010
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 express our grave concern at the death in custody of journalist Germain S. Ngota Ngota.
According to reports, on 22 April Mr Ngota, editor of the bi-monthly Cameroon Express, died in Kondengui prison in Yaoundé. The death certificate stated that Mr Ngota, who suffered from several medical conditions including asthma, high blood pressure and gout, had died from a lack of medical attention. There have been reports that Mr Ngota may have been tortured in prison.
Mr Ngota and two colleagues, Harrys Robert Mintya of the weekly Le Devoir and Serge Sabouang of the bi-monthly La Nation, were arrested in February on charges of "imitating the signature of a member of government", a criminal offence carrying up to 15 years in prison. The charges arose from their investigations into corruption allegations involving presidential aide Laurent Esso and the state-run oil company SNH. The arrests took place at the same time as the authorities harassed at least a dozen other journalists who raised questions about your administration's management of public finances and the progress of an anti-corruption drive dubbed Operation Sparrowhawk.
We respectfully call on you to ensure that a thorough and impartial investigation into Mr Ngota's death is carried out and that those responsible are held to account. We urge 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 look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience.
World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers
World Editors Forum