donderdag 29 januari 2009

Breach Of The Right To Freedom Of Expression

His Excellency Paul Biya
Office of the President
President of Cameroon

21 January 2009

Your Excellency, 

We are writing on behalf of the World Association of Newspapers and the World Editors Forum, which represent 18,000 publications in 102 countries, to express our serious concern at the jailing of journalist Lewis Medjo.

According to reports, Mr Medjo, managing editor of the weekly La Détente Libre, was convicted of “spreading false news” and sentenced to three years in jail on 7 January. He was also fined two million CFA francs. Mr Medjo had been detained in prison in Douala since 22 September 2008 on charges relating to an article published on 7 August 2008, in which he reported that you were urging the first president of the Supreme Court to take early retirement.

We respectfully remind you that jailing Mr Medjo for the crime of “spreading false news” 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, which calls for the abolition of “insult’” and criminal defamation laws in Africa as a matter of urgency.

We respectfully call on you to ensure that Mr Medjo is immediately released from prison and that all charges against him are dropped. We also urge you to ensure that your government abolishes the criminal charge of “spreading false news”, which is an unreasonable response to possible errors in reporting.

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

cc to Amadou Ali, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Justice

WAN is the global organization for the newspaper industry, with formal representative status at the United Nations, UNESCO and the Council of Europe. The organization groups 18,000 newspapers in 102 countries, 12 news agencies and 11 regional and world-wide press groups. WAN is non-governmental and non-profit.

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