The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is deeply concerned about the imprisonment of Jean-Denis Lompoto, publication director of the twice-weekly satirical newspaper Pili-Pili, after the paper accused one of your ministers of corruption. We are also disturbed about a recent police attack on three television journalists covering police activity in the Democratic Republic of Congo's capital, Kinshasa.
Lompoto was arrested on March 19 and transferred to Kinshasa central prison on March 21, according to local press freedom group Journaliste en Danger (JED). The arrest warrant charges Pili-Pili publication director Lompoto, editor Prosper Dawe, and journalist Angwalima with defaming Minister of Mining Eugène Diomi Ndongala, by reporting on corruption allegations against him. In a March 3 article, Pili-Pili said the minister had siphoned off US$60,000 from companies managed by his ministry, according to JED.
Lompoto told a JED representative, who visited him in prison, that he had been brought before a magistrate on March 20 but had not been given a hearing with legal representation.
In another worrying development, on March 15, three journalists from private television station Radio-Télévision Kin-Malebo (RTKM) were attacked in Kinshasa by police and detained for three hours, apparently in reprisal for covering a police operation.
The incident occurred as Robert Kadima Baruani, Milla Dipenga and Eric Ambago were covering a police operation to remove residents from a building whose ownership is in dispute.
JED said police manhandled the journalists and confiscated their equipment. Cameraman Kadima Baruani was hit in the face.
CPJ protests the illegal detention without trial of Jean-Denis Lompoto, and calls for his
immediate and unconditional release. As an organization of journalists dedicated to
defending the rights of our colleagues worldwide, we believe that journalists should never face criminal charges for doing their jobs and reporting news that the public has a right to know.
Police attacks on journalists who are covering issues of legitimate public concern have sadly become routine in the Democratic Republic of Congo. This harassment often goes unpunished. We call on Your Excellency to do everything within your power to ensure that the rule of law is respected, and that journalists can cover the news freely, without fear of reprisal.
Thank you for your attention in this urgent matter. We await your reply.