Congolese journalist still held in DRC although US colleague freed

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls for an immediate end to the completely arbitrary detention of a Congolese journalist who was arrested together with a US journalist by the Democratic Republic of Congo’s National Intelligence Agency (ANR) on 13 July and is still being held although his US colleague was released six days later.

The victim of this discriminatory treatment is Joseph Kazadi, who reports for the newspaper Leader and the magazine Mining News, and is a correspondent of Journalist in Danger (JED), RSF’s partner in the DRC. He is still held in the capital, Kinshasa, nine days after his arrest in the southeastern city of Lubumbashi along with Nicolas Niarchos, a US journalist reporting for two US publications, Newsweek and The Nation, who was freed in the early hours of 19 July without any charge being brought against him.

“This Congolese journalist’s detention is completely arbitrary and even bordering on persecution after his US colleague’s release,” said Arnaud Froger, the head of RSF’s Africa desk. “We call for his immediate release and urge the Congolese authorities to put a stop to the ANR’s repressive practices, which include improperly detaining journalists, confiscating their equipment and deleting its contents, to prevent them working or on the spurious grounds of protecting them.”

At the time of their arrest, the two journalists were investigating links between artisanal mining in the south of the country and those who allegedly profit from the mining, including Mai Mai Bakata Katanga, a rebel armed group active in the region.

Banned from returning to the DRC

According to his own statements and what RSF has learned from other sources, Niarchos was accused of spying, all of his equipment was seized and searched, most of his photos and videos were destroyed and his notes were examined. The ANR even leaked a photo of his passport information, which is now circulating on WhatsApp.

Even more seriously, and although he was not charged, Niarchos was forced to sign a document banning him from returning to the DRC in exchange for his release. RSF has learned that US diplomats who went to press for his release were even asked by the ANR – without success – to give a written undertaking that he would not return to the DRC.

Niarchos was nonetheless accredited with the Congolese authorities as a journalist, as RSF has verified, and he provided extensive evidence of his journalistic status in the form of the many articles he has written in the past on a range of subjects in the DRC.

A lawyer enlisted by RSF to defend Kazadi went to ANR headquarters in Kinshasa on 21 July but was not able to talk to him. Kazadi has not had access to any lawyer since his arrest. 

Neither ANR press officer Patrick Kitenge nor communication and media minister Patrick Muyaya responded to RSF’s requests for information.

A total of 19 journalists have been arrested arbitrarily in the DRC since the start of the year and two of them, Patrick Lola and Christian Bofaya, have been detained since 10 January in Équateur province. They were arrested during a march by provincial parliamentarians in protest against the province’s governor.

RSF reiterates its request for a moratorium on arrests of journalists, which the authorities promised on 29 January, at the end of a five-day national convention on communication and the media.

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