Australian journalist detained by police

New York, November 11, 2005—Police in southwestern Cameroon detained an Australian freelance journalist today as he was researching secessionist movements in the region. Cameroonian Communications Minister Pierre Moukoko Mbonjo told the Committee to Protect Journalists that authorities are investigating Andrew Mueller’s activities.

Speaking by phone from detention, Mueller told CPJ that he was traveling to an interview in the city of Kumbo as part of his research for a book on “unrecognized states.” Police questioned Mueller and recorded statements from him about his activities in Cameroon, he said. They also searched his bag and confiscated documents that had been given to him by interviewees, including some pertaining to the banned Southern Cameroon National Council (SCNC), which claims a separate state for Anglophone Cameroonians.

“We’re alarmed that Cameroonian authorities have detained Andrew Mueller, who was carrying out ordinary, journalistic activities,” CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper said. “The government must ensure his immediate and unconditional release.”

Mueller has contributed articles and commentary to a wide array of publications, including the London newspapers The Guardian and The Independent. He was arrested with SCNC vice chairman Nfor Ngala Nfor. According to local sources, authorities have recently launched a crackdown on SCNC supporters in the area, arresting SCNC chairman Chief Ayamba Ette Otun on October 31.

The independent English-language newspaper The Post, which is based in the southwestern city of Buea, reported that Otun’s arrest could be linked to the launch of a clandestine SCNC radio station, Radio Free Southern Cameroons, on October 30. The launch was reported in the local press.