New York, September 20, 2006—A journalist has been jailed for the past week and charged with defamation over a story that alleged corruption by a top tax official, according to local press freedom group Journaliste en Danger (JED) and a public official. Feu d’Or Bosange, editor of private newspaper Tapis Rouge (Red Carpet) has since retracted the story but remains in jail, according to the same sources.
Bosange was arrested on September 12 in connection with an August 16 article headlined “Scandal at the DGI,” a copy of which CPJ obtained. The article alleged that the director of the General Directorate of Taxation (DGI), Sam Bokolombe, had embezzled public funds. In an interview with CPJ today, Bokolombe said accusations were untrue. He noted that police summoned him for questioning following the article’s publication.
On Tuesday, Bosange retracted his story and apologized in his paper, according to JED and Bokolombe. Bokolombe told CPJ that the journalist would be released once he writes a personal letter of apology. Other press and public officials contacted by CPJ could not provide details.
Bosange was first held in a lockup of the judicial police, before being transferred to Kinshasa central prison on September 16, according to JED.
“Regardless of the quality of the story, this should not be a criminal matter,” CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon said. “Feu d’Or Bosange should be released immediately, and any legal proceeding should be handled in civil court.”
This is not the first time that Bosange has been jailed for his work. In December 2004, he was held for six days over a December 16, 2004, article accusing national tax office directors of corruption. Journalists in the Democratic Republic of Congo face a constant threat of imprisonment under the country’s archaic defamation laws.