Attacks on the Press in 1999 - Democratic Republic of Congo
|Publisher||Committee to Protect Journalists|
|Publication Date||February 2000|
|Cite as||Committee to Protect Journalists, Attacks on the Press in 1999 - Democratic Republic of Congo, February 2000, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/47c565a3c.html [accessed 27 February 2015]|
|Disclaimer||This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.|
The civil war that began as a rebel insurgency in August 1998 continued to destabilize the entire region, with Angola, Zimbabwe, and Namibia supporting President Laurent-Désiré Kabila's government and Rwanda and Uganda fighting on the side of Congolese rebel forces. From the beginning, President Kabila has tended to blame his military setbacks on the local and foreign press. The authorities have used "national security" as an excuse to harass, intimidate, and censor independent media. Rebel forces, which control about one third of the vast country, have also been guilty of attacks on the press.
Despite a cease-fire agreement signed by leaders of the six countries in the Zambian capital, Lusaka, on July 10 (all three main rebel groups had also signed by the end of August), fierce fighting continued on several fronts. By the end of the year, the Lusaka cease-fire agreement was in tatters. A small United Nations survey team arrived in mid-October as a precursor to a larger group of observers and a peacekeeping force. The team was unable to complete its assessment, owing to insufficient safety and travel guarantees from the Kabila government.
Many Congolese journalists told CPJ that press freedom has suffered more since President Kabila seized power in May 1997 than it did under the repressive regime of Mobutu Sese Seko. Between May 1997 and December 1999, CPJ documented more than 60 cases of journalists in prison, often without trial or sentence, and dozens more cases of harassment, threats, attacks, and censorship. And with President Kabila insisting publicly that there are "no human-rights violations" in the DRC, the outlook for independent media continues to be bleak.
In 1999, the majority of imprisoned journalists were detained for short periods, while some were repeatedly detained or harassed – for example, Modeste Mutinga, editor of the leading independent daily Le Potentiel and president of the nongovernmental organization Médias Pour la Paix (Media for Peace).
Numerous journalists were illegally held in military barracks and elsewhere. Those who reported on the war, on official corruption and mismanagement, or on the country's mounting economic woes risked falling victim to security agents of the infamous National Information Agency (ANR).
The economic interests of all parties to the conflict were another sensitive issue. In November, for example, local authorities harassed and effectively censored Radio France Internationale reporter Ghislaine Dupont when she tried to report from the strategic diamond-mining town of Mbuji-Mayi, where rebels were fighting DRC troops and their Zimbabwean allies.
The DRC's main rebel groups are the Congolese Liberation Movement (MLC), headed by Jean-Pierre Bemba, and the Congolese Rally for Democracy (RCD). In May, the RCD split into two factions, one led by ousted leader Ernest Wamba dia Wamba (based in Kisangani and backed by Uganda) and another led by Emile Ilunga (based in Goma and backed by Rwanda).
In July, RCD-Goma authorities accused the Bukavu-based Radio Maendeleo (the Kiswahili word for "development") of "dealing with issues other than development." On July 21, they silenced the station by seizing its broadcasting equipment. Meanwhile, competing Kisangani radio stations broadcast propaganda on behalf of the two RCD factions.
The Kabila government has been particularly leery of foreign media. On January 13, a suspicious fire destroyed the studios of the private Radio Télévision Message de Vie in Kinshasa, run by an Angolan Pentecostal pastor. And in July, the information minister banned all foreign television and radio programs.
At the end of 1999, two journalists remained in jail: Polycarpe Honsek-Hokwoy and Djodjo Kazadi. The long-awaited trial of another journalist, Joseph Mbakulu Pambu Diana, director of programming for the private station Radio-TV Matadi (RTM) as well as president of the local chapter of the Congolese Press Union, finally began in Kinshasa's Court of Military Order (COM) on December 9. Pambu Diana had been in detention since his arrest on October 24, 1998. He was charged with conspiracy against the state for allegedly "collaborating with the rebels" (which was later reduced to "propagating false news") when rebels of the Congolese Rally for Democracy (RCD) took over the town of Matadi in August 1998, forcing journalists to work for them.
When the Congolese Armed Forces regained control of Matadi at the end of August, they particularly singled out RTM as supposedly being sympathetic to the rebels. Pambu Diana appears to have been scapegoated, both by the authorities and by the head of RTM. The COM acquitted Pambu Diana on December 30, and he was released immediately.
Thierry Kyalumba, Vision IMPRISONED
Kyalumba, editor of the independent biweekly Vision, was arrested in Kinshasa in connection with an article in the January 8 edition of his newspaper, reporting that Uganda might have purchased a large quantity of missiles for use by anti-government DRC rebels
On March 30, the Court of Military Order charged Kyalumba with "compromising state security and divulging state secrets" and sentenced him to a four-year prison term with no parole. At the end of May, Kyalumba escaped from the Makala prison in Kinshasa and went into hiding in another country.
Michel Museme Diawe, Radio-Télévision Nationale Congolaise (RTNC) HARASSED
Soldiers forced Diawe, editor in chief of the state television station, RTNC, to leave his home. The official reason was that Diawe's apartment had been allocated to the office of the president, although this was never verified.
In November 1998, Diawe had been arrested and detained for eight days at the Kokolo military camp in Kinshasa after soldiers accused him of "deserting" his position at the television station.
Moise Musangana Mwamba, Le Potentiel IMPRISONED
Veron-Clement Kongo, Le Potentiel IMPRISONED
Emmanuel Katshunga, Le Potentiel IMPRISONED
Theodore Ngangu, Le Potentiel IMPRISONED
Godefroid Ngamisata, Le Potentiel IMPRISONED
Five journalists of the Kinshasa-based daily newspaper Le Potentiel were arrested at their offices by members of the National Information Agency (ANR). Director Musangana Mwamba, assistant editor in chief Kongo, and reporters Katshunga, Ngangu, and Ngamisata were taken in an unmarked jeep to the ANR offices in Kinshasa, where they were held until their release on May 4.
The arrests came in response to an article in the February 3 edition of Le Potentiel that attacked a government decree regulating political parties.
The five men reported that during their detention they were forced to sing hymns praising President Laurent-Désiré Kabila.
Polydor Muboyayi Mubanga, Le Phare HARASSED
Agents of the National Information Agency interrogated Mubanga, editor of the Kinshasa daily Le Phare, for four hours before releasing him. Mubanga was questioned in connection with a series of articles in his newspaper reporting, among other things, that decisions on currency valuation were being made by President Kabila rather than by Finance Ministry officials.
Two years earlier, Mubanga had been detained for two months on charges of "spreading false news and inciting ethnic hatred."
Andre Ipakala, La Référence Plus IMPRISONED
Modeste Mutinga, Le Potentiel IMPRISONED
Airport security agents arrested Ipakala, editor in chief and managing director of La Référence Plus, and Mutinga, editor in chief of Le Potentiel, both independent daily newspapers, at the Ndjili Airport in Kinshasa. The two editors were returning from South Africa, where they had attended a conference on the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Ipakala and Mutinga were interrogated for four hours at the airport, then turned over to National Information Agency (ANR) security agents, who took them to ANR headquarters and held them without charge. Ipakala and Mutinga were accused of meeting with representatives of the rebel Congolese Rally for Democracy and with former officials of the Mobutu Sese Seko regime.
CPJ protested the imprisonment of Ipakala and Mutinga in a March 25 letter to President Laurent-Désiré Kabila.
On March 24, the two editors were transferred to the custody of the Court of Military Order. They were released five days later.
Ngoy Kikungula, Le Lushois IMPRISONED
Bela Mako, Le Lushois IMPRISONED, THREATENED
Publisher Kikungula and editor Mako of the Lubumbashi-based weekly Le Lushois were arrested and charged with criminal libel in connection with an article titled "Away with Councilman Kazadi's Authority," which ran in the March 16 edition.
The article criticized the decision of Dikanga Kazadi, a political adviser to the governor of Katanga Province, to deport legal Rwandan residents from the region. The article questioned the constitutional basis for such actions, stating that Kazadi was clearly abusing his authority since he was only a counselor to the governor, not the governor himself.
On June 18, Kikungula and Mako appeared before the Court of Military Order and were sentenced to eight months in prison. They were released on September 25 by order of President Kabila.
Gustave Kalenga, La Flamme du Congo IMPRISONED
Kasonga Tshilunde, L'Eveil LEGAL ACTION
Police arrested Kalenga, editor of the independent weekly La Flamme du Congo, at his residence and took him to a police station in Kinshasa. Kalenga had been in hiding since April 3, 1999, when a Kinshasa court sentenced him in absentia to an eight-month prison term.
The verdict followed complaints against Kalenga and his colleague Kasonga Tshilunde, editor of the newspaper L'Eveil, by Trudon Katende, the head of a diamond-mining company (Minière de Bawanga). In separate articles, both journalists had alleged that Katende was involved in malfeasance that included stealing diamonds and misappropriating company funds.
After his arrest, Kalenga was transferred to the Makala central prison. He was released on May 5, after Katende withdrew his complaint.
Tshilunde, meanwhile, has been in hiding since April 3, when he was sentenced to a 10-month prison term in absentia.
Stephane Kitutu O'Leontwa, Congolese Press Union IMPRISONED
O'Leontwa, president of the Congolese Press Union (UPC), was arrested by police officers at UPC headquarters in Kinshasa and detained for questioning in connection with three allegedly "slanderous" articles by an anonymous journalist that appeared in the satirical weekly newspaper Pot Pourri.
The articles examined the private life of President Laurent-Désiré Kabila, among other things. Like many member publications of the UPC, Pot Pourri has been using the organization's address as its own official mailing address, thus making the professional union legally liable for its alleged offences. President Kabila ordered O'Leontwa's release four days later.
Dr. Jean-Fidele Kaluila Mamba, La Manchette IMPRISONED
François Mada Mbulungu Swana, La Manchette IMPRISONED, ATTACKED, HARASSED
Mamba, acting managing editor of the independent weekly La Manchette, was arrested and charged with libel in connection with two commentaries on the war in the Congo that appeared after rebel forces occupied President Kabila's hometown of Manono, near the Tanzanian border.
One of the articles, entitled "Kabila at Bay," analyzed the strategic and personal implications of Manono's occupation for President Kabila. The other, "Kabila Furious at Kakudji," alleged that the head of state held his cousin, Interior Minister Gaetan Kakudji, responsible for the debacle.
Mamba's arrest came a week after police detained La Manchette reporter Swana in an attempt to press for his editor's surrender. During his weeklong confinement in a dingy Kinshasa-Gombe prison cell, Swana, who was never charged with any crime, says he was whipped once a day by angry police officers. He was released on May 21, a day after police forces arrested La Manchette's editor Mamba.
Mamba had been La Manchette's de facto managing editor since publisher Medard Ndinga Masakuba, a longtime friend and patient of his, went into hiding to dodge arrest warrants issued against him by the authorities, who considered the publication "slanderous."
Mamba was unconditionally released on July 30.
Freddy Loseke Lisumbu, La Libre Afrique IMPRISONED
Lisumbu, publisher and editor of the independent triweekly La Libre Afrique, was arrested for slander because of an article entitled "General Discontent with the National Police," which he wrote for the May 25 edition of his newspaper.
In his article, Lisumbu stated that the national police inspector-general had illegally offered important leadership positions to his sons rather than to other, better-qualified candidates.
Lisumbu was released on July 23, although the authorities placed restrictions on his freedom of movement for an undetermined period.
Because of its caustic and allegedly insulting tone, La Libre Afrique had long been a target of criticism by other DRC journalists and scrutiny by officials.
Andre Ogobani Masudi, Numerica HARASSED
Masudi, editor in chief of the independent biweekly Numerica, was apprehended at his publication's Kinshasa offices by armed agents of the Congolese National Information Agency (ANR).
Masudi was apparently arrested in connection with the announcement of a coming increase in the price of gasoline that appeared in Numerica's June 4 issue. He was released that same day after several hours of questioning at ANR headquarters.
Godefroid Kiangwe Buleya, Mukuba IMPRISONED
Buleya, editor of the independent weekly Mukuba, was arrested at his Lubumbashi residence, apparently in connection with a June 14 article that quoted public appeals to tribal hatred voiced by Kyungu wa Kumwaza, a longtime ally of ex-president Mobutu Sese Seko and a former governor of Katanga Province.
Kyungu wa Kumwaza is widely believed to have orchestrated 1991 and 1992 attacks against the Babemba tribes, whom he referred to as "Rwandans" and "Ugandans." The resulting unrest reportedly caused the deaths of 500,000 people and forced another 500,000 into exile.
In his article, Buleya, who is also president of the Congolese Freedom of Expresssion and Human Rights Defense Fund, called Kumwaza's speech demagogic and insulting to the Babemba, insisting that the country needed social cohesion instead of tribal hatred. He also stated that Kumwaza's attacks against the Babemba stemmed from the fact that Lunda Bululu, a leader of one the rebel groups currently opposing government forces in the region, is mistakenly believed to be a Babemba.
Buleya, who was never formally charged, was held in solitary confinement at a military base in Lubumbashi until his release on July 16.
Martin Mukanya, La Tempête des Tropiques HARASSED
Dimbuka wa Dimbuka, La Tempête des Tropiques HARASSED
Boniface Lopaka, La Tempête des Tropiques HARASSED
Uniformed members of the Congolese Armed Forces' 50th Squad arrested publisher Mukanya, editor Dimbuka, and reporter Lopaka of the independent daily La Tempête des Tropiques at their newspaper's office in Kinshasa.
The three journalists were detained for several hours at the Kokolo military base in Kinshasa. Military officials interrogated them about the publication of a communiqué by the human-rights defense group La Voix des Sans-Voix (The Voice of the Voiceless) that appeared in the June 22 issue of La Tempête des Tropiques.
The communiqué apparently stated that the June 2 arrest of former minister Etienne Mbaya had taken place at President Laurent-Désiré Kabila's request. It also called for Mbaya's immediate release from detention.
The same communiqué had already been published by several other Kinshasa dailies, and BBC World Service radio aired the story one day later.
Colin Beya Bakatwambamba, Le Potentiel / Congolese News Agency HARASSED
In the early morning hours, agents of the State Security Council apprehended Bakatwambamba, a journalist with the daily newspaper Le Potentiel and the Congolese Press Agency, at his Kinshasa residence.
Bakatwambamba's arrest followed a feature written for the pro-government daily L'Avenir by reporter Désiré Ngolwa, currently a fugitive. Naming Bakatwambamba as his source, Ngolwa alleged that Georges Buse Falay, President Laurent-Désiré Kabila's closest adviser, had sent a letter to Finance Minister Mawampanga Mwana Nanga, ordering him to pay state employees the full salaries prescribed by new government regulations. According to other Congolese journalists, Buse denied ever having sent such a letter.
Moreover, this same piece of information and a copy of the letter in question had been released days before by several Kinshasa newspapers. Le Potentiel had not yet run the story.
Kazadi Ntumba Mulongo wa Majinda, Top Media / RTCN IMPRISONED
Mulongo wa Majinda, publisher of the independent magazine Top Media and a contributor to the Congolese national radio and television network, was arrested and detained for publishing a report on the misuse of public funds in the diamond-mining town of Mbuji-Mayi, in Eastern Kasai Province.
The article, written by Mulongo wa Majinda and published in the July 2 issue of Top Media, apparently held provincial governor Charles Okoto responsible for the town's bankruptcy. The report also alleged that the governor planned to flee into exile.
Accused of having conspired with the rebel forces currently occupying eastern and northern regions of the DRC, Mulongo wa Majinda remained in detention at a correction center in Kinshasa until July 17, when all charges against him were dropped.
Radio Maendeleo ATTACKED, CENSORED
Congolese Rally for Democracy (RCD) rebel soldiers attacked the Bukavu-based private radio station Radio Maendeleo and seized its transmitter and mixing console.
The seizure came shortly after a visit to Bukavu by the RCD's highest-ranking officers. The visit nearly sparked a riot. Town residents booed the officers and threw stones at them for refusing to acknowledge the July 10 cease-fire agreement, which had already been signed by the governments of six countries involved in the DRC conflict. At the time, however, no rebel group operating inside the DRC had signed the agreement.
All foreign radio and television programs CENSORED
The Congolese minister of information imposed a ban on broadcasts of all foreign television and radio programs. The measure followed the announcement on July 21 by the church-owned Radio Elikya of a coming strike by state-employed media workers.
The ban affects primarily Congolese stations such as the Catholic Radio Elikya, which broadcasts certain Radio Vatican programs; the private Raga FM, which runs news and other shows from the Voice of America (VOA) and the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC); and the private radio and television station RTKM, which carries Radio France Internationale and TV France 2's news bulletins.
The minister of information argued that the contract between his ministry and the above-mentioned radio and television stations did not provide for the broadcast of foreign programs.
Jean-Marie Kashila, Agence Congolaise de Presse ATTACKED
Bienvenu Tshiela, Kasai-Horizon Radio-Télévision ATTACKED
Kashila, a stringer for the state-owned Agence Congolaise de Presse, and Tshiela, a reporter with the private Kasai-Horizon Radio Television (KHRT), were flogged by police officers under the command of Kalala Kaniki, vice-governor of Eastern Kasai Province.
According to the two journalists, Kaniki supervised the beating himself. Throughout the ordeal, Kaniki accused Kashila and Tshiela of publishing articles supporting Charles Okoto, the province's governor and Kaniki's longtime political foe.
In 1998, Kaniki, then a spokesperson for the Alliance des Forces Démocratiques Pour la Libération rebel forces that overthrew former president Mobutu Sese Seko on May 17, 1997, ordered the flogging of Robert Ndaye Tshisense, director of programming at KHRT.
Modeste Mutinga, Le Potentiel HARASSED
Agents of the National Security Agency (ANS) arrested Mutinga, editor and managing director of the independent daily Le Potentiel and president of the nongovernmental organization Médias Pour la Paix (Media for Peace), at his newspaper's offices in Kinshasa.
The arrest followed the publication of an article in the August 9 edition of Le Potentiel about a trial held earlier that week at the military court in Kinshasa, in which security agents were accused of having colluded with DRC rebel groups. Mutinga was arrested in place of Nounou Booto, the journalist who wrote the article.
The ANS agents took Mutinga to the offices of the Committee of State Security (CSE) in the Ngaliema district of Kinshasa. He was released about six hours later.
According to an arrest warrant issued by Lumbu Mukubo, director of operations at the CSE, three security agents were ordered to arrest not only Mutinga but also the editors of two other independent newspapers in Kinshasa, Le Soft and Le Phare, which had also published articles about the trial in question. The warrant was dated "until the accomplishment of the mission," and the other two editors were still being sought at the time of Mutinga's release.
Hrvoje Hranjski, Associated Press ATTACKED
Hranjski, an Associated Press correspondent covering Central Africa, was wounded by gunfire while reporting on fighting between Rwandan and Ugandan troops in the northern city of Kisangani. He was shot in the shoulder while walking with a Rwandan soldier. It was unclear who fired the gun.
Hranjski, a Croatian national, was airlifted to Nairobi, Kenya, where he received hospital treatment.
Mwamba Wa ba Mulamba, Journaliste en Danger, Bloc-Notes IMPRISONED, HARASSED
Achille Kadima Mulamba, Veritas, Vision IMPRISONED
Agents from the Congolese National Information Agency arrested Wa ba Mulamba, head of the local press freedom group Journaliste en Danger (JED), and Kadima Mulamba (no relation), a reporter for the independent weeklies Veritas and Vision. Both journalists were detained in connection with articles published by Kadima Mulamba in the August 13 and August 30 issues of Veritas.
In both reports, Kadima Mulamba accused Laurent Batumona Kandi Kham, director of the Congolese internal revenue services, of masterminding a CFA 35 billion (US$96 million) fiscal scam. Kandi Kham denied the allegations and asked Wa ba Mulamba of JED to arrange and referee a meeting between him and Kadima Mulamba.
When they reached the meeting spot, however, the two journalists were immediately arrested by armed law-enforcement officers, who drove them to a police station in the Kinshasa suburb of Kitambo for questioning.
Kadima Mulamba was freed that afternoon, pending further investigation. Wa ba Mulamba was unconditionally released less than 24 hours later.
Kizito Mushisi, Radio Maendeleo IMPRISONED
Omba Kamengele, Radio Maendeleo IMPRISONED
Congolese Rally for Democracy (RCD) rebels arrested Mushisi and Kamengele, senior editor and head of programming, respectively, for the Bukavu-based private station Radio Maendeleo.
The journalists were arrested together with five human-rights activists as they left a meeting of the regional council of nongovernmental development organizations. The other five detainees were subsequently released.
Mushisi and Kamengele were initially held at the military headquarters in Bukavu. On August 28 they were transferred to the local central prison together with human-rights activist Raphael Wakenge, who had been arrested in Bukavu the previous day. The two journalists and Wakenge were accused of "espionage and threatening state security." All three were released on September 8 on two conditions: that they would not leave Bukavu without permission from the authorities and that they would report to police headquarters every Friday.
Radio Maendeleo has been unable to broadcast since July 21, when armed RCD members seized the station's transmitter and mixing boards.
Modeste Mutinga, Le Potentiel HARASSED
Mutinga, editor of the independent weekly Le Potentiel, had his passport and other travel documents confiscated by agents of the Congolese immigration services (DGM) as he waited at Kinshasa-Ndjili airport to board a plane bound for the United Kingdom and Canada.
Mutinga had already completed all boarding formalities when officials told him that he could not leave the country without high-level authorization from DGM. He was asked to postpone his flight by one day.
Mutinga came back to the airport the next day. Having cleared all DGM formalities and received permission to board, the journalist was apprehended by agents from the National Information Agency (ANR). The ANR agents seized all Mutinga's travel documents and told him that he could not travel without authorization from ANR headquarters.
Mutinga, who has frequently been a victim of such harassment over the past two years, was on his way to London to speak at a September 13 conference on "the challenges of governance." He was also expected to attend the annual meeting of the Canadian Journalists Federation, held from September 23 through October 3, 1999.
Antenne A CENSORED
The program directors of two private, Kinshasa-based TV stations, TKM (Télé Kin-Malebo) and Antenne A, received orders from the National Information Agency to stop broadcasting political debates and other programs of a political nature.
The orders came after TKM aired an interview with an opposition politician in its Sunday program "Temps Forts" ("High Time").
Dodo Lumingu, Alerte Ndule IMPRISONED
Bonsange Ifonge, Alerte Ndule IMPRISONED
Kalusha Bokangu, Alerte Ndule IMPRISONED
Police and soldiers detained three employees of Alerte Ndule, a Kinshasa-based cultural news weekly. Backed by a dozen soldiers from the 50th Squad of the Congolese Armed Forces (FAC), two plainclothes police officers arrested reporters Lumingu and Ifonge and production technician Bokangu at dawn on the premises of Biaka Press, a publishing company in Kinshasa.
Lumingu, Ifonge, and Bokangu were arrested as they were overseeing the layout and printing of their magazine, which was due to hit the stands at 6 a.m. They were taken to Kokolo military camp, headquarters of the FAC's 50th Squad.
Authorities did not initially explain why they detained the three men. But the next morning, Bokangu was driven in an army van to Victoire Square, the distribution center for local publications. There he was asked to identify Jean-Marie Kanku, former publisher and editor in chief of L'Alerte, a defunct independent weekly (Alerte Ndule was started by former journalists from L'Alerte).
Before it folded, L'Alerte had alleged that Congolese air force chief Gen. Faustin Munene was involved in illegal business activities.
Kanku did not show up in Victoire Square that morning. Police released the three Alerte Ndule employees on October 4, without pressing charges. Ifonge said he and his colleagues had been tortured and forced to spend four nights in an old, broken car inside General Munene's garage. They were whipped twice a day, and all their personal effects, including watches, belts, and pens, were confiscated.
Clovis Kadda, L'Alarme HARASSED
Army soldiers arrested Kadda, publisher of the independent daily L'Alarme, at the newspaper's Kinshasa offices and held him for 24 hours at the Kokolo military camp, headquarters of the 50th Squad of the Congolese Armed Forces. No official charges were pressed against him.
Kadda's detention came a day after L'Alarme reported that the region around Lake Munkamba, in Eastern Kasai Province, had fallen to rebel forces the previous week. The report angered the army command because press releases from the Ministry of Defense had claimed victory over the rebels.
According to local journalists, Kadda claimed that he was hit 57 times with a whip during his detention. He was released hours later on condition that he publish an article denying that he was ever arrested or tortured. Kadda did so in the September 23 issue of his newspaper. CPJ's sources said that Kadda had photographs taken of his scarred body, but they had not been published at year's end.
Perseverance Ndeghey, Avant-Garde IMPRISONED
Ndeghey, managing editor of the Kinshasa-based independent weekly Avant-Garde, was summoned to the offices of DEMIAP, a military agency in charge of investigating "anti-patriotic activities." She was arrested after an hour-long interrogation about a report published in the September 13 issue of Avant-Garde under the title "The War of Fools Continues."
Ndeghey's arrest resulted from a complaint by armed-forces chief Alamba Mungako. According to Mungako, Avant-Garde had printed the text of a confidential letter to President Laurent-Désiré Kabila without official permission. In this letter, Mungako advised President Kabila to fire Col. Hubert Kalombo, head of the Court of Military Order.
During her detention at a Kinshasa military base, authorities repeatedly urged Ndeghey to reveal her sources. She refused to comply, citing Article 11 of the February 1996 media bill, which protects journalists against such demands. Ndeghey was charged with conspiracy against the state and released three days later, pending further investigation.
Paulin Tusumba, La Libre Afrique LEGAL ACTION
Michel Godefroid, La Libre Afrique LEGAL ACTION
Freddy Loseke Lisumbu, La Libre Afrique LEGAL ACTION
The Kinshasa-Gombe High Court sentenced two reporters, Tusumba and Godefroid of the pro-opposition triweekly La Libre Afrique, to six months in prison without parole.
Godefroid and Tusumba were found guilty of slandering Anatole Bishikwabo Chubaka, who was lands minister at that time. This charge was based on an article accusing Chubaka of mismanagement and embezzlement that ran in the January 8 issue of La Libre Afrique.
The newspaper's publisher, Lisumbu, spent two weeks in preventive custody during the trial but was ultimately acquitted. Godefroid and Tusumba were sentenced in absentia and are currently being sought by the police.
Denis Ilounga Kabeya, La Référence Plus THREATENED
Kabeya, a journalist with the independent newspaper La Référence Plus, went into hiding after his life was publicly threatened by Charles Okoto, governor of Mbuji-Mayi, the diamond-mining center of Eastern Kasai Province.
The threats were prompted by Kabeya's article in the October 16 edition of La Référence Plus, in which he accused Okoto of having stripped the local vicegovernor of his administrative powers.
In a press conference held that same day, Okoto expressed his anger with Kabeya. He ordered the DRC's infamous security services to find Kabeya and arrest him immediately. A similar statement was broadcast on state radio.
On October 28, Kabeya resurfaced in the capital, Kinshasa.
Polycarpe Honsek-Hokwoy, La Solidarité IMPRISONED
A group of eight armed men arrested Honsek-Hokwoy, editor of the weekly private newspaper La Solidarité, at his newspaper's offices in Kinshasa and took him to the Gombe public prosecutor's office for interrogation. The day before, Honsek-Hokwoy had published an article entitled "The Fall of the House of Kabila: Mawampanga arrested at last!" The article reported that police forces had arrested Finance Minister Mawampanga Mwana Nanga after a local judge indicted him in a case of high-level corruption.
The report was apparently incorrect, but no details are available.
While Honsek-Hokwoy was not formally charged, officials accused him of distributing false news. At year's end he was being held at a Kinshasa-Gombe military camp.
Djodjo Kazadi, La Palme d'Or IMPRISONED
Unidentified armed individuals arrested Kazadi, director of the Kinshasa-based political weekly La Palme d'Or, at his residence and drove him to the Kinshasa-Bandalungwa offices of the National Information Agency, a branch of the state security apparatus, where he was kept in solitary confinement.
In a summary hearing held on November 10-12, the authorities accused Kazadi of "contempt against the chief of state and inciting revolt," although he was apparently never formally charged. According to local journalists, the arrest was in connection with a November 4 article in La Palme d'Or alleging that residents of Kivu Province, which borders Rwanda, planned a citizens' arrest of President Kabila for "selling their province to Rwandans and Burundians."
Kazadi was released on January 15. ANR agents reportedly forced the journalist to sign a document in which he promised never again to publish any article critical of the Kabila government.
Ghislaine Dupont, Radio France Internationale HARASSED, EXPELLED
Dupont, a reporter with the Paris-based Radio France Internationale, was expelled from the town of Mbuji-Mayi, a strategic diamond-mining center in Congo's Eastern Kasai Province.
Local authorities did not explain why they expelled Dupont, but members of the Congolese press freedom advocacy group Journaliste en Danger said she might have been seen as a threat to local politicians involved in diamond and gold trafficking. The reporter had declared her intention of investigating the local economy.
Although she had obtained the necessary permits, local police ordered Dupont not to leave her hotel room. In addition, her personal notebook and other professional equipment were seized. She was deported the next day.
Pot Pourri CENSORED
Two police officers and an agent of the Congolese Information Services seized copies of the satirical weekly Pot Pourri from two vendors in Kinshasa's Victory Square. They then arrested the vendors, Gaspard Baila Linoga and Jacques Bololo, and took them to the state security council prison in the Ngaliema district of Kinshasa. Bololo was released the same day, but Linoga remained in detention until early January 2000.
The authorities did not explain their actions. According to one source, the raid may have been prompted by a satirical piece in that day's edition of Pot Pourri alleging corruption in the granting of public contracts.