Journalist jailed for a week without charge

New York, May 27, 2004 – Lucien-Claude Ngongo, deputy editor of the weekly newspaper Fair Play, has been detained in the DRC capital Kinshasa for a week without charge, according to local press freedom group Journaliste en Danger (JED). Local journalists say Ngongo has been questioned about an article he wrote denouncing corrupt practices by an expatriate businessman.

Ngongo was arrested on May 19, according to JED. On May 25, he was transferred from a police cell to a Kinshasa prison, where JED was today able to visit him. Ngongo told JED he has been questioned many times about coverage of a conflict between William Damseaux and Berge Namikian, two expatriate businessmen based in Kinshasa. Ngongo was asked about an article in which he questioned why Damseaux, who is wealthy, had been awarded indigent status and therefore did not have to pay legal costs in a court battle with Namikian.

Damseaux, a Belgian expatriate who has been based in DRC for many years, is a leading businessman with interests in diverse sectors, including importing frozen foods.

“CPJ is deeply concerned about the detention of our colleague Lucien-Claude Ngongo,” said CPJ executive director Ann Cooper. “We call on Congolese authorities to release him immediately.”