Information hero

Nicaise Kibel Bel'Oka

Winner of the CNN Africa press freedom prize in 2009, Nicaise Kibel Bel’Oka has devoted years of his life to defending media freedom. His work has been hailed by journalists internationally but has been rewarded with arrests at home. The latest was in September 2012, when a Nord Kivu province customs official in Beni accused him of libel. At the trial, the prosecutor requested a year in prison and 100,000 dollars in damages although Bel’Oka produced documents proving what he wrote. But this is a country where libel cases are tried solely on “intent to harm” and ignore the facts of what is reported. As Bel’Oka told us: “The Congolese defamation law does not protect the media. It protects the strongest, those who have money and power.” The courts continue to turn a deaf ear and Bel’Oka’s appeal hearing has so far been postponed 19 times.