36th Ordinary Session: Commissioner Evo Dankwa
37th Ordinary Session: Commissioner Evo Dankwa
38th Ordinary Session: Commissioner Angela Melo
39th Ordinary Session: Commissioner Angela Melo
SUMMARY OF FACTS
1. The complaint is lodged by the NGO, Open Society Justice Initiative on
behalf of a Cameroonian citizen, Pius Njawe Noumeni, against the Government
of Cameroon ( A state Party to the African Charter)
2. The communication was submitted in accordance with article 55 of the
African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the complainant alleges
that in November 1999 the Messager Group based in Douala, Cameroon and
headed by Mr. Pius Njawe began operating a radio station in Douala whilst an
illegal decision banning the operation of private radio stations was in
3. The complainant maintains that following the formal liberalization of air
waves in April 2000, the Messager Group submitted an application with the
Ministry of Communications of Cameroon for a license to operate a radio
station. After the six (6) months period required under the law, the
Ministry of Communication did not respond favorably to the request arguing
that the application was still being considered.
4. The complainant, moreover maintains that the Ministry of Communications
of Cameroon was in the habit of processing applications for operational
licenses in an arbitrary, illegal and discriminatory manner and had on many
occasions refused to grant statutory license to operators of radio stations,
and on the contrary resorting to the practice of informally issuing
temporary authorization to operate on some frequencies, which did not
provide any legal cover to the operators of radio stations but only placed
them in a situation of uncertainty since the informal authorization could at
any given time be withdrawn. In addition, the complainant maintains that by
refusing to process applications for operating licenses or providing reasons
for refusal to grant licenses, the Ministry of Communications tends to ban,
in an arbitrary, discriminatory and politically motivated manner existing
operators from continuing to operate.
5. Taking into consideration that the Ministry of Communications did not
respond within the legally prescribed period to the Messager Group’s request
and in view of the practice of arbitrarily refusing to grant operating
licenses for stations, the complainant further maintains that the Messager
announced in mid May 2003 that it will begin broadcasting programs on Radio
Freedom FM on 24th May 2003. But on 23rd May 2003, even before Freedom FM
began broadcasting, the Ministry of Communications took the decision to ban
the broadcasting of the said programs and the police and the army sealed the
premises of the radio station.
6. In September 2003, the Messager took the matter to court requesting for a
break of the seals. After 5 months of consecutive adjournments, the court of
first instance of Douala decided that the matter came under the competence
of the administrative court and took 3 months to deliver a written judgment
which should have enabled the Messager to appeal. Whilst the Court of Appeal
should be considering this appeal, equipments worth $110,000 continue to
daily depreciate because of inadequate storage conditions.
7. As the procedure in the civil court followed its course, the Ministry of
Communications took Mr. Pius Njawe and the Messager Group to court for
having “set up and operated” without a license a radio broadcasting company.
8. The complainant maintains that the facts stated above constitute a
violation by Cameroon of articles 1, 2, 9, and 14 of the African Charter on
Human and Peoples’ Rights and consequently request the African Commission to
consider as such and request Cameroon to pay adequate compensation to the
victims for multiple violations of their rights and freedoms.
9. The complainant moreover, requests the African Commission, in accordance
with article 111 of its rules of procedure to request Cameroon to adopt
provisional measures with a view to:
a. Immediately lifting the ban affecting the programs of Freedom FM and
authorize it to operate whilst awaiting the outcome of the African
Commission’s decision on the complaint;
b. Break the seal on the premises of Freedom FM so that the equipments could
undergo proper maintenance whilst awaiting the African Commission’s decision
on the complaint;
c. Undertake a quick review of the legislative framework and administrative
practices on issuing licenses for operating radio stations with a view to
harmonizing them with the provisions of article 9 of the African Charter and
the 2002 Declaration of Principles.
10. The complaint was received at the Secretariat of the African Commission
11. By a letter ref. ACHPR/COMM 290/2004/RK addressed to the complainant,
the Secretariat of the African Commission acknowledged receipt of this
communication on 5th July 2004 and indicated that the seizure of the
complaint will be considered by the African Commission at its 36th Ordinary
Session (23rd November to 7th December 2004, Dakar, Senegal).
12. By a letter ref. ACHPR/GOV/COMM/3/RK of 15th July 2004, the Chairperson
of the African Commission sent an urgent request for the adoption of
provisional measures in accordance with the provisions of article 111 of the
African Commission’s rules of procedure, to H.E Mr. Paul Biya, President of
the Republic of Cameroon requesting that provisional measures be taken to
ensure that no irreparable damage is done to the equipment of Radio Freedom
13. By a letter of 16th November 2004, the complainant informed the
Chairperson of the African Commission, Commissioner Sawadogo, that the
request for provisional measures had not been complied with and that further
the complainant had received death threats over the matter.
14. During the 36th Ordinary Session held in Dakar, Senegal from 23rd
November to 7th December 2004, the African Commission considered the
communication and decided to be seized of it. The Complainants made oral
submissions on the failure of the State to comply with the request for
provisional measure. The State delegates indicated that they has not been
made aware of the request and the head of delegation, Minister Joseph Dion
Ngute offered his good offices with a view to facilitating an amicable
solution of the matter.
15. On 22nd December 2004, the Secretariat informed the parties that the
African Commission had been seized of the communication and requested them
to submit arguments on admissibility in three months from the date of
16. On 22nd February 2005, the Secretariat reminded the State through a Note
Verbale to submit its arguments on admissibility within one month from the
date of the reminder.
17. On 22nd March 2005, the complainant submitted further arguments on
admissibility, which were transmitted to the Respondent State on 29th March
2005 through the Embassy of the Respondent State.
18. At its 37th Ordinary Session, which was held from 27th April to 11th May
2005 in Banjul, The Gambia, the African Commission considered the case and
heard oral submissions from the parties. The African Commission subsequently
deferred its decision on admissibility of the case pending receipt of
arguments of the Respondent State on the same.
19. On 8th December 2005, the Respondent State sent to the Secretariat a
letter informing it that amicable settlement was underway in the matter.
20. On 4th October 2005, the Secretariat informed the complainant of the
above letter and forwarded the attached documentation and requested them to
send in their comments on the same.
21. At its 38th Ordinary Session held from the 21st November to 5th December
2005 in Banjul, The Gambia, the African Commission deferred its decision on
the matter awaiting for comments of the complainant on the outcome of the
said amicable settlement
22. On 28th April 2006, the Secretariat received a note from the complainant
informing it that:
1. The Government of Cameroon dropped the criminal charges against the
Freedom FM director and released the equipment of the Radio;
2. The Government committed itself to grant Radio Freedom FM a provisional
authorization to broadcast, and process its application for a full license
in a fair and equitable manner;
3. Freedom FM, for its part, agreed to discontinue the communication before
the Commission, and settle the case;
4. The ongoing negotiations between the parties on the compensation issue
have now produced a mutually acceptable compromise, wit the Government of
Cameroon agreeing to re-open the discussions with Radio Freedom FM in
relation to the compensation of the damages suffered by the radio, with a
view to reaching a fair, comprehensive and final settlement of the case; and
5. The Government has reiterated its commitment to grant Freedom FM a
provisional authorization as soon as consideration of the current
Communication is discontinued – as well as process the Radio’s application
for a broadcasting license in a fair, transparent, and expeditious manner.
23. In consideration of the above, the Open Society Justice Initiative,
acting on behalf of Mr. Pius Njawe and Groupe Le Messager, requested the
African Commission to discontinue the consideration of Communication 290/04
against the Republic of Cameroon and that the amicable settlement be
registered in its lieu.
24. At its 39th Ordinary Session held from 11th to 25th May 2006 in Banjul,
The Gambia, the African Commission considered the communication and decided
to close the file.
25. The African Commission takes note of the above request and decides to
close the file.
26. The African Commission also requests the parties to forward to the
Secretariat the written copy of the said amicable settlement for inclusion
in the file.
Done at the 39th Ordinary Session held in Banjul, The Gambia, from 11th to
25th May 2006