Cameroonian-American writer Patrice Nganang, a resident of Hopewell who teaches literature, media criticism and creative writing at Stony Brook University, has been detained in Cameroon for publishing a piece in an online news outlet that was critical of the government.
On Dec. 6, Nganang was reported missing from the Douala airport in Cameroon, where he was preparing to take a Kenya Airways flight to Zimbabwe to visit his family. It turned out that he was detained by police. The previous day, he had published an article on the French website Jeune Afrique that was critical of the Cameroonian government.
His lawyer told the Committee to Protect Journalists that Nganang is being held for allegedly offending the president of Cameroon in a Facebook post. Police confiscated his phone and did not granted him access to legal counsel until today, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.
“The detention of Patrice Nganang is an outrage and Cameroonian authorities must immediately release him without charge and allow him to travel,” said Committee to Protect Journalists Africa Program Coordinator Angela Quintal in a statement about his detention. “Cameroon seems intent on violating the right to freedom of expression to silence critical voices, including in the press.”
Nganang, 47, is a U.S. citizen and was born in Yaoundé, Cameroon. He was educated in Cameroon and Frankfurt, Germany, according to the Stony Brook University website. He is slated to be a visiting professor with the Princeton University Humanities Council in the spring semester.
During his stay in Cameroon, he visited anglophone regions where protesters have called for secession, according to multiple media reports. Nganang’s latest column was critical of Cameroonian President Paul Biya’s handling of the crisis.
PEN America, a New York City-based nonprofit that promotes creative expression and free speech by writers, issued a statement about his detention yesterday.
“Detaining an important independent voice like Patrice Nganang, who has used his writing to investigate the consequences of violence, is indicative of a movement by the government to silence all political criticism and dismantle the right to free expression,” said Karin Deutsch Karlekar, PEN America’s director of free expression at risk programs. “We condemn Nganang’s detention and call on the Cameroonian authorities to release him unharmed immediately.”
Several Princeton area writers and residents are calling on U.S. Senator Cory Booker to work to have Nganang released.