Journalist freed on bail, another remains in prison

New York, June 14, 2006—A court in the Democratic Republic of Congo today freed radio journalist Pierre-Sosthène Kambidi on bail pending appeal of a defamation conviction, according to his lawyer and the Kinshasa-based press freedom group Journaliste en Danger (JED).

Kambidi was arrested June 8 in the town of Tshikapa, and sentenced to three months in jail after what JED called a “parody of a trial” for allegedly defaming a local police chief.
JED said the journalist had returned home after paying the equivalent of $50bail, but was forbidden to leave Tshikapa.

The defamation charge stemmed from a complaint by police commander Pierre Kidogo over a radio report alleging abuses by local police. The Association of Community Radios, ARCO, has called for a “day of silence” on June 17 to protest attacks on independent radio stations.

“We welcome the release of Pierre-Sosthène Kambidi, but he should never have been jailed, and the verdict against him should be overturned,” said Ann Cooper, Executive Director of CPJ. “We are also deeply concerned that another journalist, Patrice Booto, has been in jail for six months, and urge the authorities to release him immediately.”

Booto was sentenced on May 30 to six months in prison and fined the equivalent of $500 for “offending the head of state,” and “insulting the government,” according to JED. The court ruled that he could go free upon payment of the fine, since he had already served his sentence. The journalist subsequently paid the fine, JED reported. However, the state prosecutor appealed the verdict on June 2, and Booto is still in jail, according to JED. For more information, see CPJ’s May 30 alert.