New York, September 21, 2000 — Two Kinshasa-based editors accused of high treason and threatened with the death penalty were sentenced to lengthy prison terms last week.
On September 12, Emile-Aimé Kakese Vinalu of Le Carrousel and Jean-Pierre Ekanga Mukuna of La Tribune de la Nation were each sentenced to two years in prison on charges of “demoralizing the Army” and making “veiled calls to opposition leaders and sympathizers to rebel against the powers that be.” Prosecutors had asked the military court to impose a death sentence.
Vinalu was prosecuted for articles published in the June 20 edition of Le Carrousel, lamenting the lack of cooperation among Congolese opposition movements and the lack of free expression in the country. Vinalu has been in government custody since his arrest on June 24.
Mukuna was first arrested on June 23, reportedly for refusing to reveal Vinalu’s home address. He was released on July 10, but re-arrested on August 17 when he appeared in court to testify on Vinalu’s behalf. He was also charged with high treason.
“We are relieved that Vinalu and Mukuna have not been sentenced to death, but our relief is tempered by the outrage we feel at the two-year jail sentences,” said CPJ executive director Ann Cooper.
A third journalist, editor Richard Nsamba Olangi of Le Messager Africain, was arrested on August 15 when he arrived in court to testify on behalf of Vinalu. Olangi received a six-month jail sentence plus an additional six-month suspended sentence. The presiding Court of Military Order (COM), whose rulings cannot be appealed, also ordered some of Olangi’s property confiscated.