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Charles Atangana

Journalist

Charles Attangana
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His only mistake was hosting a press conference. It was April in 2004 when Charles Atangana, a Cameroonian investigative journalist, was asked by a friend and member of the Southern Cameroon National Council political group to gather journalists from all over the country to discuss a report published by the SCNC. In Cameroon you have to ask the authorities for permission to hold a press conference. The permission was obtained and the conference set up. But as soon as the journalists arrived at Charles’ house, where the meeting was to be held, more than twenty police officers broke into his house, telling them that their meeting was illegal.

Six journalists including Charles were arrested. They were all deported to different places. Charles was brought to the prison of Douala, the largest city in Cameroon. He was stripped naked, beaten up and detained for 40 days. He was locked in a flooded cell and tortured to try to force him to reveal his sources. He refused.

Suffering from malnutrition, chronic diarrhoea and food poisoning Charles managed to persuade his captors to take him to hospital. Hidden in his underwear was the remains of his money. Through bribery he managed to escape. On his release he faced numerous death threats.

Vilified in the state-run media, censored by his own newspaper, facing threats to kill him he fled to the UK – somewhere he believed was a sanctuary for freedom of speech. Instead of freedom, Charles was locked up and faced deportation back to Cameroon where he would face more torture and maybe even death.

He was granted a temporary reprieve following an ongoing campaign by the NUJ and in 2011 Atangana won his appeal against plans to deport him back to his native country, seven years after arriving in the UK.

Charles Atangana studied Mass Communications in Cameroon and in 1993 started working as basketball journalist at the Nouveau Football Elite. After a while, Charles left sport journalism and started working as economic and investigative reporter for several Cameroonian newspapers. He decided to investigate the corruption in the public and private sector after the publication of a Transparency International report in 2000. Cameroon was among the most corrupt countries of the world and he received many threats from the government.

Even during his years stuck in limbo in the UK he did not stop writing about his country’s problems, reporting for online publications and his blog. Even carrying out an investigation into Cameroon’s president.

Charles is also involved in the National Union of Journalists’ campaign and communication team.He is now following the case of Alieu Badara Ceesay, a journalist from Gambia detained in Glasgow to be deported to his country.