RSF's refers Congolese journalist's arbitrary detention to the United Nations
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has asked the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention to recognise the arbitrary nature of Congolese journalist Stanis Bujakera Tshiamala's detention in the Democratic Republic of Congo since 8 September, and to ask the Congolese authorities to free him at once.
Stanis Bujakera Tshiamala has been held for more than ten days over an article that does not even bear his name. Three months ahead of the DRC's presidential election, the authorities are detaining this renowned journalist arbitrarily, thereby endangering press freedom. RSF's decision to refer this case to the United Nations provides the DRC authorities with an opportunity to listen to reason. In a democratic country, a journalist must never be placed in detention for his journalistic activity. Stanis Bujakera Tshiamala must be released immediately and the charges must be dropped.
The deputy director of the Actualités.cd news site and correspondent of the Reuters news agency and French news magazine Jeune Afrique, Bujakera was arrested at Kinshasa-Ndjili airport on 8 September and a formal order for his provisional detention was issued three days later. He has been held in Kinshasa's Makala prison since 14 September.
Bujakera is accused of “forgery,” “forging state seals,” “spreading false rumours” and “transmitting erroneous messages contrary to the law” under the DRC's penal code and digital law in connection with an article published on the Jeune Afrique website on 31 August with no individual reporter's by-line.
The article cited a report by the National Intelligence Agency (ANR) whose authenticity is disputed by the Congolese authorities. According to the disputed ANR report, soldiers with the military intelligence high command were responsible for the July murder of Chérubin Okende Senga, a former transport minister who was the spokesman of opposition leader Moïse Katumbi's political party.
If the prosecution limits the charges against Bujakera to spreading false rumours, he is facing up to a year in prison and a heavy fine. But if he is accused of helping to produce a forged document, he could be facing up to 15 years in prison.
In its urgent referral of the case to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention on 19 September, RSF shows that Bujakera's detention violates Congolese law and the DRC's international obligations, and that it was clearly a reprisal for his journalism – both grounds for his detention to be regarded as arbitrary under international law.
This detention of a renowned journalist sends an alarming signal as it comes just three months ahead of an election in which President Félix Tshisekedi plans to run for another term.