Cameroon bans paper, gives editor suspended sentence

New York, March 28, 2011Authorities in Cameroon must end judicial harassment of journalists reporting on public corruption, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today after a court handed an editor a suspended prison sentence and banned his newspaper for reporting on alleged mismanagement of a transportation company.

A panel of three magistrates in the commercial city of Douala convicted Editor Jean-Marie Tchatchouang of the weekly Paroles of defamation on Friday under Cameroon’s penal code and gave him a six-month suspended prison sentence and a fine of 185,200 CFA francs (US$390). The court also ordered Tchatchouang to pay 1 million CFA francs (US$2,100) in damages and suspended his newspaper indefinitely, according to local journalists and news reports. Tchatchouang appealed the ruling, he told CPJ.

“We condemn the sentence given to Jean-Marie Tchatchoung and the outright ban of his newspaper,” said CPJ Africa Advocacy Coordinator Mohamed Keita.  “We call on the appeals court to overturn the lower court’s ruling, which amounts to censorship on reporting on a matter of public interest.”

The charges were linked to Parole‘s publication of letters from current and former personnel of Douala’s main bus company, Socatur, alleging mismanagement and abuse by CEO Jean Ernest Ngallè Bibéhé and his wife, the human resources manager. Both denied any wrongdoing.

Another Cameroon journalist, Raphaël Nkamtchuen, editor of the periodical La Boussole, is also facing a prison sentence for investigating a leaked official document suggesting alleged executive interference in a high-profile corruption investigation.