December 11, 2017
By Staff, “The Gist”
Authorities detained Patrice Nganang, a Cameroonian-American academic and columnist, as he attempted to fly to Zimbabwe from Douala – Cameroon’s largest city and economic hub – on December 6, according to his attorney and media reports. His lawyer, Emmanuel Simh, told the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) that Nganang is being held by Cameroonian police in Yaoundé – the capital city – on accusations of offending the president in a Facebook post. Authorities confiscated the journalist’s phone and he was not granted access to legal counsel until days later.
“He drew attention to himself in recent days with several acts of provocation,” a source said, referring to Nganang’s Facebook posts.
The writer had been en route to Harare after wrapping up a stay in mainly French-speaking Cameroon, during which he visited the restive anglophone regions that have been hit by an anti-secession government crackdown.
Nganang’s arrest came a day after he published a critical column in the France-based news magazine Jeune Afrique, that criticized President Paul Biya’s handling of unrest in Cameroon’s Anglophone regions.
“Can bilingual Cameroonians be enemies in a country whose president has never held a single speech in English?” he wrote. In another section, the journalist quotes an optimistic English-speaking, Cameroonian leader who declared, “English will be the official language of Cameroon”. It is likely that the final sentence of the article, appears to have been ‘offensive’ to the Cameroonian president, “Only change at the top of the state can resolve the Anglophone conflict in Cameroon”.
Nganang, a professor at New York’s Stony Brook University where he is listed as a member of the Cultural Studies and Comparative Literature Faculty – describes his work as “…scholarly activities, writing and essayistic interventions.” He is also contributing columnist for Jeune Afrique. His visit to the regions affected by protests was confirmed in a statement by the African Literature Association.
“The detention of Patrice Nganang is an outrage and Cameroonian authorities must immediately release him without charge and allow him to travel,” said CPJ Africa Program Coordinator Angela Quintal. “Cameroon seems intent on violating the right to freedom of expression to silence critical voices, including in the press.”