Investigative journalist Charles Atangana fears to be sent back to Cameroon.
The fear of a deportation is undeniable. ”For me going back to Cameroon is a death sentence”, he said in an interview with The Herald.
In his last court appearance at 07/10/2010 his case was adjourned. He now is on bail and has to stay in different hostels for immigrants in London.
Charles Atangana is a respected investigative journalist. He exposed corruption within the government in Cameroon.
After the publication members of his family were arrested and tortured. Atangana also faced torture, being stripped, bullied and beaten. A sad reality for dissidents in a country with an extremely narrowed freedom of press.
Atangana saw no other way than to leave the country. In 2004 he fled from Cameroon with a fake passport. He managed to get to Glasgow, where he was living for six years.
In Glasgow, Charles Atangana integrated well to his new environment. He became a member of the National Union of Journalists(NUJ) and started to work as a volunteer for the Citizen Advice Bureau in Parkhead.
“We would fight tooth and nails to keep him in this country”
The NUJ immediately intervened when they learned about his arrest. Paul Holleran of the NUJ branch in Glasgow explains: ”I managed to send texts to him, telling we would fight tooth and nails to keep him in this country. We are campaigning, trying to keep him on a permanent basis.”
The efforts of the NUJ played a key role in his support and have been quite successful. Atangana is still in the country, with improved bail conditions. The NUJ provided evidences and witnesses for the case, highlighting the serious danger for critical journalists in Cameroon.
First the judges were denying a life-threatening scenario, but now the new evidence is taken into consideration. ”The level of political support has been quite phenomenal,” says Paul Holleran, ”that means that they are looking at the case in more depth, than they probably would normally.”
Case is not an exception
s case is not an exception in Cameroon. The authorities are keen to keep the status quo, even with force, against any form of dissidence.
A deportation of Charles Atangana would cause an outcry of journalists and human rights organisations. It is not only a question of the value of the democracy and press freedom in Cameroon, but also of our own democracy and our values of human rights.
Find out more! Here you can listen to an interview excerpt with Paul Holleran from the NUJ.
What do YOU think?
Although we live in a democratic society which accepted the principles of human rights, like the freedom of information, there are still some significant loopholes. The government is by law admitted to keep information secret, for national safety. Let’s have a look how it all began: The Official Secrets Act.
In July 1984 Clive Ponting, at that time a senior civil servant at the Ministry of Defence (MoD) sent two documents to Labour MP Tam Dalyell concerning the sinking of the Argentine navy warship General Belgrano.
The case was a key incident in the Falklands War in 1982. The documents revealed that the General Belgrano had been sighted a day earlier than officially reported, and that it was steaming away from the Royal Navy taskforce. And most importantly it was outside the exclusion zone, when the cruiser was attacked and sunk.
On the right – The news coverage of The Sun after the attacks
Clive Ponting admitted revealing the information and was charged with a criminal offence under Section 2 of the Official Secrets Act of 1911. His main defence was that the matter was in the public interest. Ponting was acquitted by the jury in 1985. The verdict came despite the judge’s direction that “the public interest is what the government of the day says it is”.
The verdict was seen as a landmark in British legal history and raised controversial debates of the public’s right to know. The Observer began to serialize Ponting’s book “The Right to Know: The inside story of the Belgrano affair.”
The Conservative government reacted by tightening up UK secrets legislation, introducing the Official Secrets Act 1989. This enactment dismantled the defence that a release of information could be seen to be in the public interest, and therefore justified. Since then it was taken that public interest actually is “what the government of the day says it is.”
The Official Secrets Act made it possible for the government to use spy strategies such as phone tapping on citizens or groups, like ngo’s. Although Freedom of information is a basic democratic principle, the government seems to disagree that it should be applied on themselves.
Instead of advocating the investigation of internal crimes, the government seeks to protect itself by tools of a totalitarian regime, which are undermining human rights of privacy, freedom of information and freedom of expression.
As the term says, the public interest should be concerned about public interests and not governmental interests or warfare strategies.