Congolese reporter held over story about former minister’s murder
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls for the release of a well-known journalist in the Democratic Republic of Congo who is being held arbitrarily on charges of “spreading false rumours” and “false information” in connection with a story about a former government minister’s murder.
Arrested on the evening of 8 September at the airport of the capital, Kinshasa, Stanis Bujakera Tshiamala, the deputy director of the Actualités.cd news site and correspondent of the Reuters news agency and the French news magazine Jeune Afrique, spent three days in police custody before being taken to the prosecutor’s office in the Kinshasa suburb of Gombe yesterday (11 September), when he was formally detained.
One of his lawyers, Grâce Tshiashala, said he was subjected to an initial three-hour interrogation on 8 September, before being questioned again the next day and again yesterday. He could be facing up to a year in prison and a heavy fine if the “false rumours” and “false information” charges are maintained, another of his lawyers, Hervé Diakiese, said.
Tshiamala was questioned about an article published on the Jeune Afrique website on 31 August about the murder of former transport minister Chérubin Okende Senga, a parliamentarian who was the spokesman of an opposition party led by prominent businessman Moïse Katumbi.
As the article was signed “News staff” and did not have Tshiamala’s by-line, he cannot be held responsible for its content under Congolese law. He was also questioned about his contacts with the media for which he works, and his phones and laptop were confiscated.
RSF contacted Patrick Muyaya, the government spokesman and minister of communications and media, but he did not respond to RSF’s queries. On the sidelines of a meeting with media representatives, he tweeted that he was “following the case closely while respecting the separation of powers until its desired rapid outcome.”
Stanis Bujakera Tshiamala’s arbitrary detention illustrates how fragile journalistic freedom is in the DRC. This renowned journalist, a correspondent for several media outlets, has no place in detention. We call on the authorities to release him as a matter of the utmost urgency.
Tshiamala’s arrest has drawn attention to a highly political case. The Jeune Afrique story about which he was questioned referred to an alleged report by the National Intelligence Agency (ANR) claiming that soldiers with the military intelligence high command kidnapped and killed Senga on 13 July 2023.
RSF is concerned that pressure on journalists and the media will continue to intensify in the run-up to December’s presidential and general elections, a concern that it already expressed in July. Reporters have been physically attacked, verbally attacked at political events, and threatened with arbitrary legal proceedings.