July 30, 2002
His Excellency Joseph Kabila
President of the Democratic Republic of Congo
Democratic Republic of Congo
Via facsimile: 011-234-88-02120 / 1-202-234-2609
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is gravely concerned about the imprisonment of Raymond Kabala and Delly Bonsange, publication director and publisher, respectively, of the independent Kinshasa daily, Alerte Plus. Both journalists have now been in prison for more than a week.
Kabala was arrested by plainclothes police early in the morning on July 19 and was detained at the provincial police department. The following day, he was taken to Kinshasa’s Penitentiary and Reeducation Center (CPRK), where he has been held ever since.
According to local sources, Kabala’s arrest stems from a July 11 Alerte Plus article reporting that Minister of Public Order and Security Mwenze Kongolo had allegedly been poisoned. The newspaper learned that the information contained in the article was untrue, and that the minister had merely been out of the country at the time. Alerte Plus published a correction in its July 12 edition.
According to the local press freedom group Journaliste En Danger (JED), Kabala claims that authorities have repeatedly questioned him about his sources and tortured him on a daily basis during his detention.
On the afternoon of July 22, officers of the Kinshasa/Matete Appeals Court Prosecutor’s Office arrested Bonsange. He was questioned about the same July 11 Alerte Plus article and was later transferred to the CPRK, where he also has been held since his arrest.
The incarceration of Kabala and Bonsange follows a series of alarming attacks on press freedom in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
- On the morning of July 11, special service agents of the police arrested Raymond Luaula and Bamporiki Chamira, publication director and chief investigative reporter, respectively, for the independent Kinshasa daily La Tempête des Tropiques, and three other employees of the newspaper. All five were taken to the special services holding center in Kinshasa, where they were interrogated in connection with an article that appeared in the July 10 edition of the paper. The article reported on a July 8 confrontation between civilians and soldiers on the streets of Kinshasa that had allegedly become violent and resulted in four deaths and substantial material damage. In addition, police seized the entire print run of the July 11 edition of La Tempête des Tropiques from vendors that morning.
All five were released in the evening on July 11, on the condition that the paper print a correction to the story, which it did in its July 12 edition.
- On June 19, Félix Kabuizi, publication director of the independent daily La Référence Plus, was called in for questioning by members of the National Intelligence Agency (ANR). The journalist was interrogated for six hours about a June 18 La Référence Plus story that reported on the disappearance of seven leaders of a rebel movement in the eastern part of the country. ANR agents warned Kabuizi not to write about such issues, claiming it could discourage former rebels now engaged in the peace process from returning to the country.
- On June 7, Nyemabo Kalenga, publisher of the independent biweekly La Tribune, was detained for more than 10 hours at the ANR offices. He was questioned about an article that appeared in the May 9 edition of the paper that reported on a financial scandal involving a Lebanese citizen residing in Kinshasa.
- In addition to these arrests, on July 24, an ANR official in Mbuji-Mayi issued an order to the management of three local radio stations to stop broadcasting news about Etienne Tshisekedi, president of the main opposition party in the DRC. According to JED, the ANR official said that the stations were forbidden to “quote the name of, refer to or broadcast pictures of Mr. Etienne Tshisekedi in any programs.” The stations were told that if they violated the ban they would be “punished with the utmost rigor of the law.”
This recent spate of arrests, interrogations, and censorship of journalists for their work is deeply disturbing. Official interference with the press was endemic under the previous regime of Laurent-Désiré Kabila. During his 4 years in power, CPJ documented 130 press freedom violations. It appears that harassment of the press is continuing unabated under your administration. According to JED records, 41 journalists have now been arrested since Your Excellency took office in early 2001.
As an organization of journalists dedicated to the defense of our colleagues worldwide, we call on Your Excellency to do everything within your power to see that Raymond Kabala and Delly Bonsange are immediately released. We also urge you to ensure that government officials stop harassing and censoring journalists in reprisal for their work.
We thank you for your attention in this matter. We await your reply.