New York, April 11, 2006–The Committee to Protect Journalists is deeply concerned about newspaper publisher Patrice Booto, who has been in jail in the capital, Kinshasa, since November 2, 2005. Booto recently told a representative of Journaliste en Danger (JED), a Kinshasa-based press freedom organization, that he was suffering from several health problems and had not received adequate medical care in prison.
Booto suffers from gastrointestinal problems and has not been allowed to see a physician, he told JED.
Booto, publisher of the thrice-weekly Le Journal and its sister publication, Pool Malebo, faces charges of publishing “false rumors,” “insulting the head of state,” and “insulting the government.” He was charged after both newspapers published an article that claimed the government had given a large sum of money to Tanzanian education agencies while Congolese teachers were on strike for more pay. Booto has been denied bail while awaiting trial, and Congolese officials have refused requests from JED and other press freedom organizations to free him.
The National Security Court, which was overseeing Booto’s case, was dissolved following the passage of DRC’s new constitution in December 2005, JED President Donat M’baya Tshimanga said. It is unclear which court has now taken jurisdiction in the case.
“We are deeply troubled by Patrice Booto’s continued imprisonment on criminal charges that should not have been brought to begin with,” said Ann Cooper, executive director of CPJ. “Congolese authorities must release him immediately, and work toward reforming DRC’s archaic media laws so that journalists are free to report the news without fear of arrest.”
Meanwhile, two other journalists jailed in DRC on charges related to their work were recently released after posting bail. Jean Pierre Phambu Lutette, managing director of the small private newspaper La Tolérance, was released on April 6 after spending more than a month in prison on charges of insulting a local government official and “inciting tribal hatred.” Jean-Louis Ngalamulume, publisher of the small private newspaper L’Eclaireur, was released on March 31 after almost two months behind bars for printing “public insults” against another government official who manages real estate documents.
For more information on these cases, see CPJ’s protest letter: http://www.cpj.org/protests/06ltrs/africa/drc08mar06pl.html.
Journalists reporting on corruption and human rights abuses in DRC face the constant threat of detention without due process, especially under the country’s archaic defamation and “insult” laws. Most of these cases never go to trial, although detainees often remain in jail for weeks in appalling conditions and must post bail to gain their release.