14 January 1998


Pius Njawe sentenced to two years in prison: journalist Michel Michaut Moussala sentenced; magazine must appear in court

Incident details

Pius Njawe, Michel Michaut Moussala


legal action

(RSF/IFEX) - On 13 January 1998, Pius Njawe, editor in chief of the weekly
"Le Messager", was sentenced to two years in prison and fined 500,000 CFA
francs (5,000FF) for spreading false information. Arrested on 24 December,
Njawe had been convicted for an article titled "Is President Biya sick?"
which appeared in the 22 December edition of the paper. In the article,
journalist Franck Essomba reported that head of state Paul Biya had suffered
a heart attack at the Cameroon Cup soccer finals. (The article is available
on the RSF website under "Censure")

**New cases and updates IFEX alert of 13 January 1998 and 24 December 1997**

RSF is profoundly shocked by the excessive sentence inflicted on Njawe. The
organization also points out that, in its 26 December edition, "Le Messager"
published the president's offices' denial of the illness. As a result, the
paper committed no error from the point of view of professional ethics.=20

According to RSF, "This conviction shows the inability of the regime of
President Paul Biya to accept not only the slightest criticism, but even the
slightest divergence of opinion. In attacking Njawe, a symbol of the private
press in Cameroon, the authorities are blackmailing the press corp in=

Although international organizations welcomed the lifting of censorship in
January 1996, 15 journalists have been arrested in the last two years. As
well, Michel Michaut Moussala, editor of the private newspaper "Aurore Plus"
was convicted on 13 January and sentenced to 6 months in prison and a fine
of one million CFA francs (10,000 FF). As for the magazine "L'Epression",
it must appear in court on 15 January to answer for the publication of an
article implicating Tchouta Moussa Mbatkam, director of Ports of Cameroon,
in arms trafficking. The escalation of threats against freedom of the press
will lead RSF to intervene on Cameroon at the UN Commission on Human Rights
session which begins on 16 March 1998.

The director of RSF has requested a visa from the Embassy of Cameroon in
order to visit Njawe and meet with authorities. The request should be
considered by the Minister of Communications in Yaounde.

RSF is launching an appeal:

  • to international human rights organizations to combine efforts to free
    Pius Njawe and all other Cameroonian journalists in prison
  • to the French government to intervene with Mr. Biya in order to obtain=
    editor's immediate release
  • to European institutions to put into motion the procedures prescribed=
    the case of violation of Article 5 of the Lome Agreement which relates to
    democracy and human rights
  • to the international community to take into account the absence of=
    for freedom of the press in Cameroon in their international relations with
    that country

  • Source

    Reporters Without Borders
    47, rue Vivienne
    75002 Paris, France
    rsf (@) rsf.org

    Fax:+33 1 45 23 11 51
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