News

September 18, 2017 - Updated on September 19, 2017

Joint letter to Congolese president seeking journalist’s release

Denis Sassou Nguesso, Congo President - Photo: Thierry Charlier (AFP/Getty Images)
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and the Committee to Protect Journalists have sent a joint letter to the Republic of Congo’s president, Denis Sassou Nguesso, requesting the immediate release of Ghys Fortuné Bemba, the publisher of the newspaper Talassa. Bemba has been held for more than eight months for publishing a statement by a government opponent. No date has so far been set for his trial.

President Denis Sassou Nguesso
Presidential Palace
Brazzaville, Congo


Via email to the government spokesperson, Thierry Moungalla


September 18, 2017


Dear President Sassou Nguesso,


The Committee to Protect Journalists and Reporters Sans Frontières, two independent press freedom advocacy organizations, write to express our deep concern about the jailing without charge of Ghys Fortuné Dombé Bemba, editor of the privately owned newspaper Talassa, since January.


Republic of the Congo security services arrested Bemba in Brazzaville on January 11, 2017. According to a statement released by Congolese Public Prosecutor André Oko Ngakala, the editor is accused of "complicity in undermining state security" in connection with his publication of a statement by former rebel leader Frédéric Bintsamou, also known as Pastor Ntumi.


Bemba’s arrest followed Congolese authorities’ visit to Talassa’s office on January 9 to prevent the newspaper’s publication, according to news reports.


A formal request on July 13, 2017, for Bemba’s release while awaiting trial was denied, and a trial date was not set, according to a person tracking his case. When CPJ in July 2017 contacted Séraphin Ondele, cabinet director of the minister of the interior for Republic of the Congo, he said he was unaware of Bemba’s case.


This is not the first time Bemba and Talassa have been targeted by Congolese authorities. Bemba was arrested in 2015 in connection with an article critical of your administration, and Talassa was suspended in 2007 and 2013.


Bemba’s detention for more than eight months without trial is inhumane, and sends a chilling message to the media in Republic of the Congo that the government will not respect the fundamental right of journalists to gather and impart information and that they too could be jailed.


We urge you to use your office to ensure that Ghys Fortuné Dombé Bemba is immediately freed and that all investigations against him are dropped. Freedom of the press in the Republic of the Congo depends on a climate in which journalists can work without fear of reprisal, which in turn depends on your leadership.


Sincerely,


Joel Simon
Executive Director
Committee to Protect Journalists


Christophe Deloire
Secretary General
Reporters Sans Frontières


CC:

Arsène Niamba, Communications Adviser to the President


Thierry Moungalla, Government spokesman


Jean Claude Gakosso, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation


Aimé Emmanuel Yoka, Minister of State, Keeper of the Seals, Minister of Justice and Human Rights


Sètondji Adjovi, Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, United Nations Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights


David Kaye, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression


Moussa Faki Mahamat, African Union Commission Chairman


Georges Nakseu, Directeur, Démocratie et Droits de l'Homme, Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie


Faith Pansy Tlakula, Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression, The African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights