DRC : Congolese court asked to jail reporter for three years
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns the absurd three-year prison sentence that the high court in Mbandaka, in the western Democratic Republic of Congo, has been asked to impose on a community radio reporter who has been held ever since his arrest while covering a street protest last November.
“If the prosecutor’s request is accepted, it will be the heaviest sentence passed on a journalist in recent years,” said Arnaud Froger, the head of RSF’s Africa desk. “It is all the more unjustified as the prosecution has been unable to produce any concrete evidence to support the charges against this journalist, who has been held in a completely arbitrary manner for more than seven months. We call for his unconditional release.”
On 28 June, the high court in Mbandaka, the capital of the western province of Équateur, was asked to sentence the reporter, Chilassy Bofumbo, to three years in prison and a fine of 500,000 Congolese francs (237 euros). A heavy requisition following various accusations: “prejudicial accusations”, “contempt for authority”, “public insult”, and “inciting hatred and rebellion.” No hard evidence was presented for any of the charges brought against Bofumbo, who is being tried along with four other persons.
Bofumbo is a journalist for Radio Télévision Sarah (RTS), a popular community radio station owned by the previous provincial governor, and for Flash Info Plus. He has been behind bars in Mbandaka prison, the capital of Équateur province in the north-west of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) since his arrest on 18 November 2021.
The journalist was arrested while covering a march organised by a civil society movement to protest against the provincial governor, Dieudonné Boloko Bolumbo. Wearing a vest with the RTS logo and carrying a tape recorder and his press card, Bofumbo was taken to the Mbandaka police station, along with several demonstrators. That same day, RTS stopped broadcasting by decision of the provincial governor.
This radio station and its staff have repeatedly been subjected to threats, attacks and sanctions. In 2013, the radio station’s 22 journalists published a letter to the provincial governor reporting that they had been the targets of attacks by political party activists. RTS journalist Steeve Mwanyo was sentenced to 12 months in prison in 2019 on a charge of insulting the governor.