Congolese reporter insulted and his media outlet attacked at second trial hearing
The second hearing in Congolese journalist Stanis Bujakera's trial, held on 20 October in Kinshasa in the presence of Reporters Without Borders (RSF), was marked by a deplorable atmosphere, with an agitated and defensive prosecutor alternating between slander and absurd assumptions in the absence of evidence.
Bujakera, who is being tried of six charges including “spreading false rumours” and “forgery [and] falsification of state seals” in connection with a story in the Paris-based news weekly Jeune Afrique, was even referred to as “Satan” at one point during the hearing, which several diplomats as well as RSF representatives attended.
Unable to produce any evidence, the prosecutor struggled throughout the hearing and lashed out wildly, even accusing Jeune Afrique – again without any evidence – of making “thousands of dollars” from the story in order to “smear” the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The Congolese authorities dispute the authenticity of a memo allegedly written by the DRC’s National Intelligence Agency (ANR) that Jeune Afrique used as the basis of the story it published on 31 August. The Jeune Afrique story quoted the ANR memo as saying a Congolese military intelligence unit was implicated in last July’s murder of Chérubin Okende, the spokesman of a leading government opponent.
The story did not carry Bujakera’s by-line but the prosecution claims that the “forged” ANR memo was sent to Jeune Afrique by Bujakera, who was arrested on 8 September and has been held ever since in Makala prison in the DRC’s capital, Kinshasa.
This second hearing has served to confirm that the prosecution has absolutely no evidence to support the serious charges brought against this journalist. Even more worryingly, perhaps, the insults and slander aimed at Stanis Bujakera and his media, the attempts to smear them in the absence of being able to justify the proceedings, showed no sign of being designed to shed light on the truth. How many more hearings of this kind can be held? It is time to put an end to this pointless trial. Stanis Bujakera must be released.
In the course of examining the contents of all of Bujakera’s phones, thereby violating the confidentiality of his sources, the prosecution found no trace of the memo’s transmission to Jeune Afrique. While recognising that other journalists obtained the memo, the prosecution nonetheless accuses Bujakera of forging it. When questioned by the defence about the seal that would have been needed to create the forgery, the prosecutor asked Bujakera to hand it over during the hearing, although he has been imprisoned for the past month and a half.
Bujakera’s defence lawyers tried to delay the start of the debate on the substance of the case on the grounds that the prosecution has yet to produce the documents and testimony on which its case is based. The prosecutor replied: “if the file is empty, the accused should not be afraid of the investigation”. If only that were true.
The next hearing is set for 3 November.