New York, June 12, 2006—The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns a three-month prison sentence given to a radio journalist in the Democratic Republic of Congo for defaming a local police chief. Pierre-Sosthène Kambidi, of private radio station Concorde FM in the central town of Tshikapa, was sentenced on June 10, his lawyer said.
Kambidi was arrested June 8 following a complaint by police commander Pierre Kidogo over a radio report alleging abuses by local police.
Community radio stations in Tshikapa stopped broadcasting on Sunday to protest the court decision, according to the Association of Community Radios, ARCO. Kambidi’s lawyers have appealed the verdict.
“This kind of prosecution has the effect of criminalizing reporting on police brutality, a vital public concern for the people of the Democratic Republic of Congo,” said Ann Cooper, executive director of CPJ. “Pierre-Sosthène Kambidi should be freed immediately and unconditionally.”
According to CPJ research, attacks on the press have increased in recent weeks in the DRC, which is due to hold parliamentary and presidential elections on July 30. These will be the first democratic polls in the volatile country since its independence from Belgium in 1960.
“It is all too easy for powerful local figures to have critical journalists thrown into jail in the DRC,” Cooper added. “We appeal urgently to President Joseph Kabila and his government to punish any such abuses, and to ensure that journalists are able to do their work, especially during this crucial electoral period.”