15 December 2017 – Cameroonian authorities should immediately release Cameroonian-American writer, poet and professor, Patrice Nganang and allow him to travel, PEN International said today. Nganang was reported missing by his family after he failed to board a flight on 6 December from Douala airport, Cameroon to Harare, Zimbabwe where he was due to meet his wife. Two days later, on 8 December it was revealed that he had been held by police in Yaoundé on accusations of insulting the president, according to reports.
Shortly before his arrest, Nganang had written an article for Jeune Afrique in which he was critical of the response by Cameroon’s authorities to unrest in some English-speaking areas of the country, which had led to the death of several protesters in October.
‘We are concerned that the detention of Patrice Nganang by the Cameroonian authorities is connected with his writings and indicates a willingness to silence critics in violation of their freedom of expression. He should be released immediately and unconditionally and allowed to reunite with his family,’ said Ebony Riddell- Bamber, Director of Advocacy and Campaigns at PEN International.
On 9 December, Nganang and his attorney attended a hearing with judicial police and were told he faced accusations of insulting Cameroonian President Paul Biya and issuing a death threat, according to reports. On 11 December, the charge of insulting the President was dropped but three others remain – threats against the president, illegal immigration, and forgery and use of fake documents. According to his lawyer, the accusation of the threats against the President stems from a Facebook post.
The space for dissent in Cameroon has become increasingly restricted with the use of anti-state legislation to silence journalists for their critical reporting. Nganang was born in Yaoundé, Cameroon, and was educated both in Cameroon and Germany and is a US citizen. He received his Ph.D. in Comparative Literature and is currently a professor at Stony Brook University in New York State, where he teaches Cultural Studies and Comparative Literature. Nganang is the author of several novels as well as collections of essays and poems.
For further information, please contact Lianna Merner at PEN International, Koops Mill, 162-164 Abbey Street, London, SE1 2AN, UK, Tel.: +44 (0) 20 7405 0338, Fax: +44 (0) 20 7405 0339, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org