On the occasion of the 52nd anniversary of the independence of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Reporters Without Borders and its local partner organization, Journalist in Danger, have written to President Joseph Kabila seeking a presidential pardon for the journalist Patrick Palata, who is serving a 20-year prison sentence.
Palata, a journalist with the commercial TV station Canal Congo Télévision which broadcasts from Matadi, capital of Bas-Congo province, has been held in Ndolo military prison in Kinshasa for almost two years.
“Without going into the details of the case, in which the journalist and his lawyers have always maintained his innocence, Reporters Without Borders and Journalist in Danger are seeking clemency on your part and request that, by virtue of the powers invested in you under the constitution, you accord him a pardon and commute his sentence,” the two organizations said in the letter, sent on 27 June and delivered the following day to the president’s office in Kinshasa, the Palais de la Nation.
As the Democratic Republic of Congo celebrates its independence anniversary on 30 June, and prepares to host the 14th summit of the International Organization of the Francophonie four months later, the two NGOs believe the release of Palata would send a strong signal the French-speaking world and would demonstrate President Joseph Kabila’s desire to respect human rights and ensure that journalists are protected in their work.
On 8 April this year, the Bas-Congo military court rejected an appeal against 20-year sentences imposed by the Matadi garrison military tribunal on Palata and 49 other people for organizing a rebel movement.
Reporters Without Borders and Journalist in Danger noted that Palata, 34, has a five-month-old child born while he has been in prison and that there are signs that the journalist’s health may be deteriorating.
Photo : Joseph Kabila (Gwenn Dubourthoumieu / AFP)