Cameroon: Author imprisoned for insulting first lady in a book
Two significant human rights instruments, namely the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and the African Charter on Human and People's Rights (ACHPR) are enshrined in the Constitution of the Republic of Cameroon. In the preamble, which according to Article 65 is part and parcel of the Constitution, the state recognizes and affirms "...the fundamental freedoms enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Charter of the United Nations and The African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights, and all duly ratified international conventions...". Mindful of the aforementioned, the imprisonment of an author for "insulting" the first lady of the republic, Chantal Biya (see photo), in a book is therefore unconstitutional and a violation of "duly ratified" international human rights conventions.
International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX), a network of organizations that promote and protect the right to free expression, issued an alert on 29 March 2011 condemning the imprisonment of Bertrand Teyou, a Cameroonian author, for "insulting" the First Lady of Cameroon in a book that was published last year.
According to IFEX, in 2010, Bertand Teyou published a book titled "La belle de la république bananière: Chantal Biya, de la rue au palais" (meaning: the beautiful of the banana republic: Chantal Biya, from the streets to the palace).
The author was arrested in November 2010 and slapped with a fine or 2 years in prison.
Freedom to hold and express opinions without state interference is a fundamental right and the foundation of a free and democratic society. This right is laid down in all significant human rights instruments, including the UDHR (Article 19), the ACHPR (Article 9 ), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Article 19), just to name a few.
The arrest and imprisonment of an author as a result of his publication is outrageous and contravenes every international human rights standard.
Bertrand Teyou is presently serving 2 years in prison due to his inability to pay the high fine of 2 million CFA francs plus other costs levied on him for writing a book about a public figure. Note that Bertrand is not the first Cameroonian imprisoned - in violation of free expression. Many have been imprisoned before him, including a prominent musician, popularly known as Lapiro de Mbanga - who is presently imprisoned after composing a song against the recent controversial constitutional amendment that eliminated presidential term limits in Cameroon.
A declaration of the Committee for the Liberation of Bertrand Teyoureveals that First Lady Chantal Biya never lodged a complaint against Bertrand Teyou. Regional authorities in the economic capital - Douala - took upon themselves to arrest, prosecute and sentence the author before a planned celebration marking the publication of his book.
PEN International, an organization that promotes literature, encourages supporters to TAKE ACTION to secure the immediate and unconditional release of Bertrand Teyou. *Photo: First Lady Chantal Biya.
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Born and raised in a middle class family with strong Christian values in Cameroon, Central Africa, I learned quickly that all natural persons are born free and equal in rights. I graduated from the University of Buea with a Bachelor of Laws (LL.B.) degree, and received a Master of Laws (LL.M.) degree in International Human Rights Law and International Labour Rights from Lund University, Sweden. My passion is in promoting human rights and the rule of law. I'm a married proud daddy of two.