Held more than two weeks, DRC reporter denied access to RSF lawyer

The Democratic Republic of Congo’s National Intelligence Agency (ANR) has been holding freelance journalist Joseph Kazadi arbitrarily for more than two weeks. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns the stalling tactics used by the ANR to prevent Kazadi from having access to the lawyer enlisted by RSF to represent him.

Kazadi’s family are worried because they have not heard from him since his arrest in Lubumbashi, the capital of the southeastern province of Haut-Katanga, on 13 July, although he was transferred more than two weeks ago to ANR headquarters in the DRC’s capital, Kinshasa.

He still has not been able to see a lawyer, including the one recruited by RSF, Godefroid Kabango, who has been denied access to his client three times since the start of the week on the grounds that the ANR’s general administrator has not been available to respond to his request, which was submitted directly to the ANR, both orally and by letter.

At the time of his arrest, Kazadi was working with Nicholas Niarchos – a US journalist who reports for The Nation and New Yorker – on the links between artisanal mining in the southeast of the country and those who allegedly profit from the mining, including Mai Mai Bakata Katanga, a rebel armed group active in the region.

Because of his detailed knowledge of mining in the Katanga region, Kazadi has worked as a fixer for many international media outlets, including CNN, ABC, Fortune and the New Yorker. He also runs the newspaper Leader, reports for the magazine Mining News, and is a correspondent of Journalist in Danger (JED), RSF’s partner in the DRC.

When reached by RSF, communication and media minister Patrick Muyaya simply referred to “the presence of aspects that pose a real problem regarding the nature of the activities” of the two journalists. But if that is the case, why was Niarchos – who was arrested at the same time as Kazadi – released a few days later without any charges being brought against him?

“The stalling tactics used to prevent this Congolese journalist from finally having access to a lawyer only reinforce the arbitrary nature of these proceedings, said Arnaud Froger, the head of RSF’s Africa Desk. “At this stage, there is absolutely no evidence to justify this journalist’s prolonged detention. He continues to be deprived of his freedom while his American colleague, who was arrested at the same time, was released more than a week ago. We demand Joseph Kazadi’s release without further delay.”

While held, Niarchos was accused of spying without anything being cited to support the claim. The journalistic nature of his activities is evidenced by the many articles he has written in the past on different subjects in the DRC, some of them in collaboration with Kazadi. 

The ANR nonetheless deleted many of the photos and videos he had shot for his latest story, leaked a photo of his passport information that was later found circulating on WhatsApp groups, and – in exchange for his release – forced him to sign a letter undertaking never to return to the DRC. These actions constitute flagrant violations of the right to practice journalism freely.

For the past two weeks, RSF has repeatedly tried to reach Patrick Kitenge, the head of media relations at the ANR, to ask him about this case, but he has not responded to RSF’s messages and calls.

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.

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Publié le 29.07.2022
Mise à jour le 29.07.2022