After winning last week’s presidential election with more than 88% of the votes, according to the provisional results, Denis Sassou Nguesso is about to begin his fourth consecutive term with a journalist in prison. The 77-year-old president has ruled his country for nearly 37 of the past 41 years.
The publisher of the satirical magazine Sel-Piment, Raymond Malonga has been detained since 2 February, when plainclothes intelligence officials snatched him from his bed in the Brazzaville hospital where he was being treated for malaria. He is accused of defamation for printing a story from a website about alleged embezzlement by the wife of the head of the National Security Council, who is also Nguesso’s nephew.
“This is a case in which the law and applicable procedures have been circumvented to settle scores with a journalist who was hospitalised and who had committed no offence punishable by imprisonment,” said Arnaud Froger. “The image transmitted by a sick man’s arrest and by such a flagrant violation of the rule of law is simply appalling. The pressure will not let up. Raymond Malonga must be freed.”
The joint statement by RSF and 12 other NGOs points out that, in the Republic of Congo, press offences are only punishable by imprisonment in exceptional circumstances that do not apply to this case. And when the maximum sentence is less than a year in prison, an accused person resident in the Republic of Congo cannot be held provisionally for more than 15 days after their first court appearance.
Malonga’s case has been referred to a criminal court but he has yet to appear in court. Meanwhile, the news about his health is not reassuring. RSF has learned that he was suffering from poorly-treated malaria, with a 40-degree fever, headaches, stomach problems and anorexia, at the time of his arrest. Subsequent tests suggest that he may also have caught typhoid. His family say they are very worried by his “feverish state,” which has not been improved by imprisonment.
Also known as Congo-Brazzaville, the Republic of Congo is ranked 118th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2020 World Press Freedom Index.
The joint press release (see below) is signed by:
- Agir ensemble pour les droits humains
- ACAT Congo
- ACAT France
- Cinema For Peace and Democracy
- International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), as part of the Observatory for the
Protection of Human Rights Defenders
- Congolese Observatory for Human Rights (OCDH)
- World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), as part of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
- Reporters Without Borders (RSF)
- Collectif Sassoufit
- Mouvement Ras Le Bol Congo
- Tournons La Page