Conditions for the press in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have improved somewhat since the government of President Joseph Kabila signed a peace accord with the main rebel groups in December 2002, ending four years of devastating civil war. However, local journalists still endure harassment, legal action, and imprisonment. They also have come under violent attack in some parts of the country, particularly in the east, where sporadic fighting between former rebel militias and government forces continues. Although the transition constitution – which was adopted in 2003 as part of the peace accords – guarantees press freedom, media advocacy groups say the government has done little to ensure that it is respected in practice.
Under the peace accords, Kabila will head the power-sharing transitional government until 2005 along with four vice presidents from both the political opposition and rebel groups. In June 2005, the DRC is due to hold its first democratic elections since independence in 1960. However, the government has been beset by political, military, and economic crises, and its control over the unstable eastern part of the country remains tenuous. When Rwandan-backed rebels took control of the eastern town of Bukavu in June, the ensuing political tension was accompanied by increased attacks on the press, by both the government and rebel forces.
A CPJ delegation that visited the DRC in the first two weeks of June confirmed the deteriorating conditions for the press there. During a two-month period surrounding the unrest in Bukavu, the government issued at least three directives to restrict press coverage; authorities imprisoned at least four journalists; and attackers allegedly led by an army officer severely beat another journalist.
At the end of May, as fighting erupted around Bukavu, a government communiqué warned that all TV and radio stations were "strictly forbidden to broadcast messages likely to aggravate the situation." On June 5, then Press and Information Minister Vital Kamerhe summoned editors of media outlets in the capital, Kinshasa, and issued further warnings. On June 12, he distributed a circular cautioning the media against "words that might demoralize the Congolese Armed Forces" or "treating lightly the unfortunate events that threaten the peace process." He also threatened legal sanctions.
When rebels took Bukavu, they forcibly closed the town's three main community radio stations to silence news coverage, and they threatened the stations' directors, forcing them to flee. Rebels also killed the brother of radio station director Joseph Nkinzo, whom they mistakenly believed was Nkinzo. Although the rebels withdrew from Bukavu on June 9, they remained in the region and subsequently targeted at least one other journalist, forcing him to flee after he wrote an article alleging human rights abuses by the rebels.
In December, amid renewed clashes in the east between loyalist soldiers and Rwandan-backed army dissidents, new Press and Information Minister Henri Mova Sakanyi denounced a visit to Rwanda by 11 Congolese journalists from the private press. The journalists, who had been reporting on the fighting in eastern DRC, went to Rwanda's capital, Kigali, and interviewed Rwandan President Paul Kagame, according to Congolese press freedom group Journaliste en Danger (JED). The minister's statement accused them of leaving the country illegally and of spreading Rwandan propaganda. However, JED said the journalists had obtained the necessary travel permits, and that they had acted professionally. JED accused the minister of wanting to prevent Congolese journalists from traveling abroad, and of issuing veiled threats to the press.
Congolese journalists say they continue to work under the constant threat of imprisonment. DRC laws, notably the 1996 Press Law and the Penal Code, contain a wide range of criminal "press offenses" that are frequently used to jail journalists, often without due process. Journalists who dare to criticize those with political, military, or financial power are the most at risk. In March, Jean-Denis Lompoto, publications director of the satirical weekly Pili-Pili, was jailed for a week on defamation charges after he accused Mining Minister Eugène Diomi Ndongala of corruption. During CPJ's visit in June, three journalists were in "preventive detention" in Kinshasa Prison on defamation charges. Within two months, all three journalists had been granted "provisional" freedom. There were no further developments in their cases at year's end, according to JED, which said that such cases often do not go to trial.
Also in June, journalist Gustave Kalenga Kabanda spent about two weeks in jail for filming the luxurious Gemena residence of Jean-Pierre Bemba, one of the DRC's four vice presidents. Bemba accused him of spying and trespassing, according to JED. In September, Freddy Monsa Iyaka Duku, publications director of the respected Kinshasa daily Le Potentiel, was arrested and detained overnight after Vice President Arthur Z'Ahidi Ngoma filed a complaint over an article about a land ownership dispute between Ngoma and a private company.
CPJ documented several cases in which government security forces attacked the press in 2004. In August, national intelligence agents stormed the offices of the evangelical Radio Hosanna in the southern city of Lubumbashi and closed it after the station broadcast a sermon alleging that the government was corrupt and had mismanaged the country's economy. Seven employees were arrested and released three days later. A court in Lubumbashi acquitted the pastor responsible for the sermon on October 18, and he was released that day, according to JED. Also on October 18, security forces returned the station's equipment.
Many Congolese journalists recognize the need to improve professional standards and keep ethnic and political propaganda out of the media. Three new regulatory bodies have recently been launched to oversee the press, two of them created by journalists: the High Authority on Media (HAM), a public agency created under the peace accords; the Observatory of Congolese Media (OMEC); and the Press Card Commission of the Congolese National Press Union (UNPC). A national journalism congress in March 2004 created OMEC and UNPC.
HAM comprises representatives from all parties in the transition government. It can impose sanctions, such as the suspension of radio and TV programs that are deemed to break the law. Its president is Modeste Mutinga, a veteran journalist and former CPJ International Press Freedom Award winner who founded the Kinshasa daily Le Potentiel. Local journalists and press freedom organizations have welcomed Mutinga's appointment and hope that he will guarantee HAM's independence. At the same time, they have expressed some concern that the body could be subject to political pressure.
OMEC, which mainly comprises professional journalists, is a self-regulatory body that deals with ethics complaints. It can issue public rebukes or recommend the withdrawal of press credentials. Its president is Polydor Muboyayi, a veteran journalist and editor of the Kinshasa daily Le Phare (The Lighthouse).
The March journalism congress also took steps to revitalize the national press union, UNPC (formerly UPC), and created within it a Press Card Commission. UNPC President Kabeya Pindi Pasi said that the organization was proposing that all professional members must have a press card, which would require a work contract and diploma in journalism or the equivalent. A UNPC disciplinary committee may suspend or withdraw press cards if journalists are deemed to have acted unethically. Charles Dimandja, information director of the private TV station RTKM, heads the commission.
Local journalists say that, with these regulatory bodies operational, the government should lift criminal penalties for press offenses. They also stress that the new bodies will need to be independent and resist all political pressure, especially to ensure free and professional media coverage of the elections scheduled for 2005.
2004 Documented Cases – Democratic Republic of the Congo
FEBRUARY 12, 2004
Posted: February 19, 2004
Telesphore Namukama, Radio Sauti ya Rehema
Radio Sauti ya Rehema
Agents of the Direction de la Sécurité et du Renseignement, (Security and Intelligence Services, or DSR) arrested Namukama, host of the Swahili-language radio program "Let Us Plead for Justice." The program airs on the community radio station Sauti ya Rehema (Voice of Mercy), which is based in the town of Bukavu in eastern DRC. The DSR are the local equivalent of the Kinshasa-based National Intelligence Agency, or ANR, and were controlled by the rebel Congolese Rally for Democracy (RCD) during DRC's four-year civil war before a multiparty transitional government was inaugurated in Kinshasa in 2003. It is unclear whether the Kinshasa government fully controls the DSR.
Namukama's arrest stemmed from his February 10 program, during which the journalist spoke about arms caches hidden in the South Kivu Province, of which Bukavu is the main town, and concluded that peace was unlikely to be established in the area in the near future. During the program, DSR agents came to the station and forced the journalist off the air, replacing the show with music.
Two days later, on February 12, the agents returned and arrested Namukama, accusing him of "sowing turmoil in the minds of the people." He was held for 48 hours at the DSR headquarters in Bukavu before being released without charge. According to Joseph Nkinzo, director of Sauti ya Rehema, Namukama was forced to promise that he would no longer broadcast programs dealing with politics.
During the civil war, the RCD imposed a media code on areas it controlled, barring community radio stations from broadcasting news and political analysis. Now that the RCD is no longer formally in power in eastern DRC, local journalists say it is unclear whether the central government will enforce this rule.
Sauti ya Rehema is affiliated with Heritier de la Justice (Inheritor of Justice), a Congolese nongovernmental organization that works to defend human rights in Bukavu. The station is also funded by the local Protestant Church and international aid organizations.
MARCH 15, 2004
Posted: March 24, 2004
Robert Kadima Baruani, Radio-Télévision Kin-Malebo
Milla Dipenga, Radio-Télévision Kin-Malebo
Eric Ambago, Radio-Télévision Kin-Malebo
Cameraman Kadima Baruani, assistant cameraman Dipenga, and journalist Ambago, all of Radio-Télévision Kin-Malebo, were attacked in the capital, Kinshasa, by police and detained for three hours, according to local press freedom group Journaliste en Danger (JED).
The incident occurred while the three journalists were covering a police operation to remove residents from a building whose ownership is in dispute. JED said police manhandled the journalists and confiscated their equipment. Cameraman Kadima Baruani was hit in the face.
MARCH 19, 2004
Updated: March 29, 2004
Jean-Denis Lompoto, Pili-Pili
Prosper Dawe, Pili-Pili Angwalima, Pili-Pili
HARRASSED, LEGAL ACTION
Lompoto, publications director for the newspaper Pili-Pili, was arrested. He was transferred to Kinshasa Central Prison on March 21, according to local press freedom group Journaliste en Danger (JED). The arrest warrant charges Lompoto, Pili-Pili Editor Dawe, and Pili-Pili journalist Angwalima with defaming Minister of Mining Eugène Diomi Ndongala.
The charges stem from a March 3 article in Pili-Pili alleging that the minister had siphoned off US$60,000 from companies managed by his ministry, according to JED.
Lompoto told a JED representative who visited him in prison that he had been brought before a magistrate on March 20 but was not allowed a hearing with legal representation. No trial date has been set. Dawe and Angwalima went into hiding following Lompoto's arrest.
Lompoto was released March 27 on bail of US$100.
MAY 19, 2004
Posted: June 7, 2004
Updated: August 10, 2004
Lucien-Claude Ngongo, Fair Play
IMPRISONED, LEGAL ACTION
Ngongo, deputy editor of the weekly newspaper Fair Play, was detained on defamation charges brought by wealthy expatriate businessman William Damseaux. Local journalists said he was questioned about articles denouncing practices by Damseaux in relation to a longstanding court battle with Berge Nanikian, another expatriate businessmen based in Kinshasa. CPJ staff visited Ngongo in Kinshasa prison on June 6, along with representatives from the local press freedom group Journaliste en Danger (JED). Ngongo told CPJ he was questioned about an article signed by stringer Grégoire Agboya; judicial authorities, Ngongo said, believed he wrote the story himself under that pseudonym.
Ngongo was granted a provisional release on July 28, after paying bail equivalent to about $10, according to JED. His trial began on August 2.
MAY 21, 2004
Updated: July 26, 2004
Rakys Bokela, Le Collecteur
IMPRISONED, LEGAL ACTION
Bokela, editor of newspaper Le Collecteur, was imprisoned in Kinshasa, the capital of Democratic Republic of Congo, on criminal defamation charges.
A CPJ representative and members of the local press freedom group Journaliste en Danger (JED) visited the journalist in Kinshasa Prison on Sunday, June 6.
The charges against Bokela were filed by the former president of the Congolese boxing federation, Aimé Luvumbu, in connection with a February 18, 2004, article in Le Collecteur titled "Aimé Luvumbu should be in the central prison," according to JED. The article accused Luvumbu of malfeasance when he was head of the boxing federation. Bokela told CPJ he had been asked repeatedly to reveal his sources, and that judicial authorities think he wrote the story, which he says he did not author.
The delegation that visited the journalists in prison included CPJ Africa Program Coordinator Julia Crawford; Dr. Philippe Dahinden, of the Switzerland-based Hirondelle Foundation, who is consulting for CPJ's mission as an independent expert; JED President M'baya Tshimanga; and JED Legal Adviser Charles-Mugagga Mushizi.
Bokela was granted a provisional release on June 13.
MAY 27, 2004
Updated: July 26, 2004
Albert Kassa Khamy Mouya, Le Lauréat
IMPRISONED, LEGAL ACTION
Kassa, former publication director of the weekly newspaper Le Lauréat, was imprisoned in Kinshasa, the capital of Democratic Republic of Congo, on criminal defamation charges.
A CPJ representative and members of the local press freedom group Journaliste en Danger (JED) visited the journalist in Kinshasa Prison on Sunday, June 6. Kassa, who is diabetic, already appeared to be in fragile health.
The charges against Kassa stem from a March 2004 article in Le Lauréat about a legal battle between expatriate businessmen William Damseaux and Berge Nanikian, according to JED. Damseaux's lawyer, Marceline Tshitoko, brought the charge, claiming that the article defamed her.
Kassa told CPJ that Grégoire Agboya, an occasional stringer for Le Lauréat, wrote the piece, but that judicial authorities were holding him responsible as the publication director at the time the report was printed. Kassa says he left Le Lauréat in January, but that the newspaper continued to print his name as its publication director after his departure.
Congolese law states that if the author of an offending article cannot be found, either the publication director or the editor can be held responsible.
The delegation that visited the journalist in prison included CPJ Africa Program Coordinator Julia Crawford; Dr. Philippe Dahinden of the Switzerland-based Hirondelle Foundation, who accompanied CPJ's mission to DRC as an independent expert; JED President M'baya Tshimanga; and JED Legal Adviser Charles-Mugagga Mushizi.
Kassa's health deteriorated rapidly in prison, leading CPJ and JED to press the authorities for his release on health grounds. He was finally granted a provisional release on June 29 after being hospitalized on June 21.
JUNE 2, 2004
Posted: June 4, 2004
Joseph Nkinzo, Sauti ya Rehema
Ben Kabamba, Radio Maria
Kizito Mushizi, Radio Maendeleo
Serge Maheshe, Radio Okapi
Sauti ya Rehema
According to the local press freedom group Journaliste en Danger and other local sources, Nkinzo, director of the radio station Sauti ya Rehema (Voice of Mercy), narrowly escaped an assassination attempt in the morning, when rebels who took control of the town of Bukavu, in eastern DRC, on June 2 came looking for him and murdered his younger brother. The rebels arrived at the journalist's home, smashed windows, and demanded to know where Nkinzo was. Believing that Nkinzo's brother was the journalist, the rebels killed him and looted the house.
Kabamba, director of Radio Maria; Mushizi, director of Radio Maendeleo; and Nkinzo had been receiving death threats by telephone since May 29. CPJ sources say the rebels began hunting for the three station directors shortly after taking the town on the morning of June 2.
All three stations stopped broadcasting to protect their staff. Rebel forces broke windows and stole equipment from Radio Maria. Also on Wednesday, rebels seized communications equipment from a guard at Radio Maendeleo and forced their way into the studio, but no one was there.
Nkinzo and Mushizi took refuge at the U.N. compound in Bukavu on June 3.
Radio Okapi, a joint project of the U.N. mission in DRC and the Switzerland-based Hirondelle Foundation, is the only radio station in Bukavu whose broadcasts continued uninterrupted. Radio Okapi broadcasts from the U.N. compound.
Two groups of pro-Rwanda rebels in the east joined forces to take Bukavu on June 2 because of tensions over a new integrated national army a new governor appointed in Bukavu by the transitional government in Kinshasa, according to international news sources. Anti-U.N. protests erupted yesterday in Kinshasa and other cities, with demonstrators blaming U.N. peacekeepers in Bukavu for failing to defend the city.
On June 2, Maheshe, a journalist with Radio Okapi, received phone calls from presumably anti-rebel individuals who threatened to "deal" with him because they said he worked for the United Nations, which the callers said had "sold Bukavu out."
Sources in Bukavu told CPJ that on Thursday afternoon, rebels forced journalists from the local studio of the national radio station RTNC back on air and were dictating the content of broadcasts.
JUNE 7, 2004
Posted: August 10, 2004
Gustave Kalenga Kabanda, La Flamme du Congo
Police arrested Kalenga, editor and director of the independent weekly La Flamme du Congo, at his home in the capital, Kinshasa, according to JED. He was jailed on charges of filming illegally at the Gemena residence of Jean-Pierre Bemba, one of DRC's four vice presidents, after Bemba accused him of spying and trespassing. Gemena is in Equateur Province, in northern DRC, which is a stronghold of Bemba's former rebel movement, the MLC.
Kalenga led a team of seven Congolese journalists who visited Gemena from May 29 to June 5. They were accompanying Senator Jeannot Bemba Saolona, the vice president's father, who was returning to his birthplace for the first time in five years. The journalists filmed plantations and property belonging to the Bemba family, including a luxurious new residence being built by the vice president.
Kalenga had already been arrested on June 1 and jailed for 5 days in Gemena before being granted a provisional release and permission to return to Kinshasa, according to JED. He was provisionally released from Kinshasa Central Prison on the evening of June 26, after paying US$53 in bail.
JUNE 19, 2004
Updated: July 19, 2004
Nicaise Kibel-Bel-Oka, Les Coulisses
IMPRISONED, LEGAL ACTION
Kibel-Bel-Oka, publisher and editor of the private weekly Les Coulisses in the northeastern town of Beni, was convicted of defamation and jailed.
According to the local press freedom group Journaliste En Danger (JED), the charges against Kibel-Bel-Oka stem from a December 2003 Les Coulisses article that accused Jacques Kiangu, a local businessman, of failing to pay taxes on goods he imported from Uganda.
On March 2, a court in Beni sentenced Kibel-Bel-Oka to five years in prison and ordered him to pay US$2,000 in damages. The journalist was not present at the opening of the trial because he was unaware of the trial date. Shortly thereafter, a judge reduced the journalist's prison sentence to six months and increased the fine to US$5,000.
Kibel-Bel-Oka's lawyers appealed the sentence and were able to get a new trial, during which they provided evidence to substantiate the allegations made in the Les Coulisses article.
On June 19, Kibel-Bel-Oka was again sentenced to six months in prison and ordered to pay US$5,000 in damages. Intelligence agents arrested him that same day.
On July 10, a higher court granted Kibel-Bel-Oka a provisional release pending consideration of an appeal filed by his lawyers claiming a number of irregularities, according to JED. The journalist, who paid US$200 in bail, spent 21 days in detention. The first appeal hearing will be held on August 6. Under the terms of his provisional release, Kibel-Bel-Oka is not permitted to travel outside Beni.
JUNE 20, 2004
Posted: July 26, 2004
Modeste Shabani, Sauti ya Mkaaaji
Shabani, director of the community radio station Sauti ya Mkaaji (Voice of the Farmer) in Kasongo, eastern DRC, was severely beaten by armed men and hospitalized in intensive care, according to the local press freedom group Journaliste en Danger (JED). The attackers were led by an officer of the former rebel movement RCD, Col. Bokeone Alumba Okoko, who accused Shabani of "meddling too much in human rights issues." JED reported that Sauti ya Mkaaji had broadcast reports denouncing human rights abuses by Colonel Bokeone in Kasongo.
The armed men stormed Sauti ya Mkaaji's studio and threatened its staff before attacking Shabani. JED reported that when delegates visited Shabani in a Goma medical center on June 29, he was suffering from fractured hips, broken ribs, and acute pain at the base of his neck. He had been transferred from a medical center in Kasongo, Maniema Province, to the larger town of Goma because of the severity of his injuries.
The day of the attack, a commission of inquiry launched by Maniema Provincial Governor Koloso Sumahili suspended Colonel Bokeone. Human rights activists are calling for the colonel to be prosecuted.
JULY 5, 2004
Posted: July 21, 2004
César Balume Wetemwami, freelance
Wetemwami, president of the association of photographers of DRC's North-Kivu Province, was arrested by Rwandan officials when he crossed the border from Goma (DRC) into Gisenyi (Rwanda). The officials accused him of spying, according to Congolese press freedom group Journaliste en Danger (JED).
Wetemwami, who is based in Goma, had gone to Gisenyi on a photo assignment for various Congolese newspapers. After his arrest, he was detained in a military prison in Gisenyi. During questioning, he was accused of spying because his cell phone contained contact numbers for DRC President Laurent Kabila and Information Minister Vital Kamerhe, Balume later told JED.
On July 16, after JED and international news media reported his arrest, the Rwandan military handed Balume over to Congolese authorities in Goma. He was released on July 18.
JULY 15, 2004
Posted: July 26, 2004
Canal Kin Télévision (CK TV)
About a dozen armed police stormed CK TV's headquarters in the capital, Kinshasa, just after 12 p.m. The officers were accompanied by TV evangelist Pastor Denis Lessie, who was demanding that he be allowed to respond to another pastor, Théodore Ngoy, who was on air and had accused him of "swindling and influence peddling," according to the local press freedom group Journaliste en Danger (JED).
Lessie went to the studio where the program was airing and tried to force his way in, but CK TV personnel stopped him. This led to an altercation between the CK TV personnel and the police, who were "guarding" Lessie. More police were called in to help "protect" Lessie, and CK TV's programs were disrupted for a few moments, according to JED. Alerted to what was happening, JED President D. M'baya Tshimanga went to CK TV's studios and met with Lessie, who apologized for his behavior.
JULY 16, 2004
Posted: August 10, 2004
Déo Namujimbo, Syfia
Soldiers close to rebel army commander Laurent Nkunda began hunting for Namujimbo, the Goma (North-Kivu, Province, eastern DRC) correspondent for the France-based news agency Syfia, after an article he wrote denouncing a "reign of terror" by Nkunda's men appeared on Syfia's Web site on July 15. Namujimbo's neighbors warned him not to return to his home, according to CPJ sources.
Press freedom organization Journaliste en Danger (JED) quoted Namujimbo's neighbors as saying that on the night of July 17, "the same soldiers spread all over the area [near Namujimbo's home] until 3 a.m., asking questions about what time the journalist would return." On July 18, Namujimbo was forced to flee with his family to Bukavu, in South-Kivu Province.
Namujimbo's article denounced massive human rights abuses allegedly committed by Nkunda's men. According to JED, he wrote that "for the last month-and-a-half, the population of Minova, not far from Goma, have been living in terror because of harassment by soldiers of Nkunda encamped in the region. Racketeering and rape are frequent. At night, everyone goes to hide in the hills." The article was reprinted in newspapers in the capital, Kinshasa, including the July 17 edition of daily Le Potentiel.
In June, renegade troops loyal to wartime rebel commanders Nkunda and Col. Jules Mutebutsi took control of Bukavu, some 60 miles south of Goma, for nine days, before troops loyal to DRC President Joseph Kabila retook the town.
JULY 19, 2004
Posted: August 10, 2004
Lumbana Kapassa, RadioTélévision Kin Malebo (RTKM)
Kapassa, director-general of the private station RTKM, was summoned to the premises of the government security services (Agence nationale des renseignements, ANR) in the capital, Kinshasa, and questioned for three hours about an RTKM broadcast that had shown Honoré Ngbanda Nzambo ko Atumba, former defense minister and special security adviser to the late dictator Mobutu Sese Seko, addressing officers of Mobutu's former army in exile.
In his speech, shown in a recorded broadcast from Brussels, Ngbanda criticized the current regime in Kinshasa but urged the exiled soldiers to return to DRC and join a new integrated army being created under a peace agreement, according to local press freedom group Journaliste en Danger (JED).
Authorities threatened Kapassa during his interrogation and confiscated tapes of the broadcast. The journalist was told that RTKM should never again broadcast anything featuring Ngbanda, according to JED.
AUGUST 3, 2004
Posted: August 27,2004
José Wakadila, La Référence Plus
THREATENED, LEGAL ACTION
La Référence Plus
Wakadila, a journalist with the Kinshasa daily newspaper La Référence Plus, was summoned to appear in court in the capital, Kinshasa, to answer charges of criminal defamation filed by the DRC's national oil refinery, SOCIR, according to local press freedom organization Journaliste en Danger (JED). SOCIR has also filed a civil complaint against La Référence Plus.
Wakadila did not appear in court hearings on August 3 and August 18, but his lawyers represented him, according to CPJ sources and local press reports. The journalist has gone into hiding for fear of arrest. Lawyers for Wakadila and La Référence Plus have lodged an appeal with a higher court on procedural grounds.
The defamation charges stem from a July 17 article in La Référence Plus that accused certain directors of the company of corruption and of conspiring with some multinationals to reduce SOCIR's crude oil refining capabilities, according to JED.
JED reported that Wakadila received anonymous phone calls warning him of arrest and also saying, "You chose the wrong target because you attacked the younger brother of Vice President Yerodia." SOCIR Executive Director Mvwemba Ntala Félix is the brother of Abdoulaye Yerodia, one of DRC's four vice presidents.
SOCIR, a mixed-capital, Italo-Congolese joint venture based at Kinlao, on the coast near Muanda, opened in 1963 to refine crude oil. However, it cannot process the DRC's heavy crude, and in recent years it has served mainly as a storage facility for imported petroleum products.
AUGUST 4, 2004
Updated: November 9, 2004
Roger Nsenda, Radio Hosanna
Clement Kabwe, Radio Hosanna
Costa Kazadi, Radio Hosanna
Didier Lofoli, Radio Hosanna
National intelligence agents stormed evangelical station Radio Hosanna, in the southern city of Lubumbashi, closing it and arresting seven employees after the station broadcast a sermon that criticized the government.
Radio Hosanna broadcasts religious and news programs in local languages, including French and Swahili.
The raid came one day after the arrest of Albert Lukusa, pastor of the Nouvelle Cité de David (New City of David) church, which owns the station. The national intelligence agency (ANR) accused Lukusa of insulting the head of state and of "inciting people to revolt against national authorities," CPJ sources said.
The accusation stems from a July 31 broadcast of a sermon by Lukusa in which he discussed the state of the country on the anniversary of its independence, the sources said. During his sermon, Lukusa criticized the government and said he would continue to do so, as he had under the rule of former dictator Mobutu Sese Seko. According to the local press freedom organization Journaliste en Danger (JED), Lukusa alleged that the government was corrupt and had mismanaged the country's economy.
The pastor also pointed to the presence of what he termed "foreigners" in the transitional government headed by President Joseph Kabila, initiated after a 2002 power-sharing deal that ended a devastating four-year civil war. Lukusa said the country was "run by Rwandans and Senegalese," and that authorities were "incapable of responding to the basic needs of the population," according to JED.
On August 4, journalists at the station announced Lukusa's detention on-air, rebroadcast the sermon, and invited listeners to call in to express their opinions, according to local sources. During the call-in program, ANR agents and police stormed the station, confiscated equipment, including the transmitter, and arrested seven station employees. These included four journalists: Nsenda, Kabwe, Kazadi, and Lofoli, according to a source at the station. Two technicians, Maturin Tshisimpa and Mimi Kajinga, were also arrested, along with security guard Emmanuel Lukumu.
On August 7, the seven radio employees were released without charge. According to JED, a court in Lubumbashi acquitted Lukusa on October 18, and he was released that day. On October 28, the ANR returned the radio station's equipment, and Hosanna began broadcasting again two days later, according to a source at the station.
AUGUST 11, 2004
Posted: August 20, 2004
Théobald Balura, Radiotélévision Nationale Congolaise (RTNC)
Balura, a cameraman for the national broadcaster in the eastern town of Goma, was arrested by troops loyal to dissident army commander Laurent Nkunda in Minova, about 32 miles (52 kilometers) from Goma, according to the local press freedom group Journaliste en Danger (JED). Nkunda's forces had set up base in Minova after withdrawing from Bukavu, which they captured for a week in early June.
Balura had gone to Minova to cover a ceremony marking the hand over to a new local administrator, according to JED. But Nkunda's men prevented the ceremony from taking place, arresting Balura at the same time and seizing his camera.
Balura was released on August 13. He told JED his captors had said he was filming a banned ceremony. Balura said he had been freed on Nkunda's orders. He said Nkunda had also ordered the detention of the commander behind the arrest, and the return of the journalist's camera.
AUGUST 19, 2004
Posted: August 25, 2004
Simplice Kalunga wa Kalunga, Channel Media Broadcasting (CMB)
Kalunga, news director of the private television station Channel Media Broadcasting (CMB) and anchor of CMB's "Nouvelle Donne" (New Deal) program, was summoned to the state prosecutor's office in Kinshasa and questioned for several hours about a televised interview on a nationality law before parliament, according to Kalunga and local press freedom groups.
The interview, broadcast on August 9, was with local lawyer and clergyman Théodore Ngoy, who has since been arrested. The prosecutor seized a videocassette of the program, according to the press freedom group Journaliste en Danger (JED).
The broadcast took a critical look at the nationality measure drafted by Justice Minister Kisimba Ngoy. In the interview, Théodore Ngoy alleged corruption in the Justice Ministry and suggested the minister step down, according to CPJ sources.
Kalunga said he received threatening phone calls before and after his questioning, and said he fears for his safety. He said when he called Kisimba Ngoy, the minister accused him of corruption.
JED said Théodore Ngoy was arrested on August 14 and imprisoned in Kinshasa's central jail, accused of "offense to the authorities and insults to the judiciary."
Kalunga has been questioned before about his program. Last October, police detained Kalunga and questioned him for several hours about a broadcast in which a guest criticized the country's justice system. He was released the same day.
SEPTEMBER 13, 2004
Posted: September 17, 2004
Freddy Monsa Iyaka Duku, Le Potentiel
Monsa, publication director of the widely respected independent daily Le Potentiel, was arrested and detained when he responded to a prosecutor's summons in the capital, Kinshasa. After appearing before a judge, the journalist was held overnight in a cell at the Public Prosecutor's Department before being released the following afternoon.
According to local sources, the summons followed a complaint lodged by Arthur Z'Ahidi Ngoma, one of four vice presidents in DRC's national transitional government. The complaint stemmed from an August 23 article published in Le Potentiel about a land ownership dispute between Ngoma and the private textile company Utexafrica. The newspaper printed a press release from Ngoma claiming that the disputed plot of land legally belongs to the vice president, as well as a letter from Texaf, Utexafrica's Belgium-based parent company, accusing Ngoma of using his political power to occupy the land illegally.
Le Potentiel also published a short commentary on the dispute, titled "Land ownership scandal: Z'Ahidi Ngoma wants to help himself," stating that the vice president "could be accused of misappropriation and abuse of power" if Texaf's allegations prove true.
Several days after the article ran, Le Potentiel received and published a letter of response from Ngoma, which included copies of official documents that he claimed support his ownership claim over the land.
While in detention, Monsa was accused of defaming the vice president, an offense that could carry a prison sentence if he is convicted, local sources say. Upon his release after paying bail of about US$100, Monsa was told to report to the prosecutor twice a week. Le Potentiel hired a lawyer who has petitioned for the case against Monsa to be dropped, according to a source at the newspaper.
The Kinshasa-based press freedom organization Journaliste en Danger protested Monsa's detention, noting that Le Potentiel "has shown complete professionalism in this case."
DECEMBER 18, 2004
Posted: February 2, 2005
Feu d'Or Bonsange Ifonge, Tapis Rouge
Bonsange, the director of Tapis Rouge, a news periodical in the capital, Kinshasa, was arrested and detained in connection with defamation allegations. He was first held in a lockup of the judicial police, before being transferred to Kinshasa central prison, according to local press freedom group Journaliste en Danger (JED).
Prosecutors questioned Bonsange about an article that appeared in Tapis Rouge (Red Carpet) on December 16. The article accused national tax office directors of corruption, according to JED. He was also questioned about the identity of the author. The article was signed "Prof. Thony Héritier," which Bonsange says is not a pseudonym.
JED said one director, Bulambo Kilosho, filed a complaint against Bonsange for defamation. On December 24, Bonsange was granted a provisional release after paying bail equivalent to US$340, according to JED.
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