New York, June 9, 2006—The Committee to Protect Journalists is deeply troubled by the arrest of a radio journalist in the Democratic Republic of Congo who criticized the police on air. Pierre-Sosthène Kambidi, who works for the local private radio station Concorde FM, and the Kinshasa-based press freedom organization Journaliste en Danger (JED), was arrested yesterday in central city of Tshikapa after a police commander filed a complaint.
Kambidi appeared in court yesterday but it is unclear whether he was formally charged, Romain Kambala Bilolo, a journalist with another Tshikapa radio station, and local representative of the Congolese press union, told CPJ. At the hearing, police commander Pierre Kidogo said that the journalist had defamed him in a June 7 broadcast alleging police brutality. However, the judge said that Kidogo had not presented sufficient proof of defamation, and scheduled a new hearing for Saturday, said Bilolo, who attended the hearing.
“Journalists in the Democratic Republic of Congo can be jailed at the whim of powerful figures,” said Ann Cooper, executive director of CPJ. “The existence of criminal defamation and insult statutes is a threat to press freedom. The frequent use of these laws to imprison journalists without due process is outrageous.”
Kambidi was jailed twice by intelligence agents in 2000, once for over a month, in connection with his work, according to CPJ records. At the time, he was a correspondent for the private Kinshasa-based daily Le Phare.