JANUARY 31, 2005
Posted: February 14, 2005

José Wakadila, La Référence PlusIMPRISONED

Wakadila, a reporter with the private daily La Référence Plus, was taken into custody and imprisoned in the western town of Matadi on defamation charges brought by two national oil executives.

In September, a Kinshasa court sentenced Wakadila in absentia to 11 months in jail for defamation and ordered his newspaper to pay a fine equivalent to US$600, the director of Matadi central prison told the local press freedom group Journaliste en Danger (JED).

But André Ipakala, editor of the Kinshasa-based La Référence Plus, told CPJ that neither the newspaper nor Wakadila’s lawyer had been informed of the court judgment. The newspaper has appealed.

Mvuemba Ntanda, president of DRC’s national oil refinery, SOCIR, and Jacobus Terrablanche, the refinery’s vice president, brought the charges, according to JED. The complaint stemmed from a July 17, 2004, article that accused certain SOCIR directors of corruption and of conspiring with multinational corporations to reduce the company’s crude oil refining capabilities, according to JED. In recent years, SOCIR has served mainly as a storage facility for imported petroleum products.

JED reported at the time that Wakadila received anonymous phone calls warning him of arrest and saying he chose the “wrong target.” Ntanda is the brother of Abdoulaye Yerodia, one of DRC’s four vice presidents. Wakadila, fearing arrest, went into hiding in his hometown of Matadi. He was arrested while boarding a bus to Kinshasa.

On February 8, Wakadila was brought to a court in Kinshasa, which granted him a provisional release. He was freed the same day after paying bail equivalent to US$200, according to JED.