Congo expels critical female journalist

Abuja, Nigeria, September 25, 2014–The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns Congolese authorities’ decision to expel a freelance journalist from the country and calls on them to allow her to enter the country and report freely. Before her expulsion, Sadio Kante reported receiving threats in connection with a series of stories she published on the attack of another journalist.

Kante was arrested on Monday and held overnight in the capital, Brazzaville, before being expelled to the Malian capital of Bamako early Tuesday, according to news reports. Police accused her of disturbing the peace, drug consumption, and illegal residence, the reports said. Kante denied the allegations and said she was a Congolese citizen because, although her father is Malian and her mother Senegalese, she was born in Brazzaville, according to news reports and a copy of her birth certificate and a Congolese identity card CPJ has reviewed.

Under a 1961 Congolese citizenship law, anyone born of foreign parents in the Congo is a citizen of the country if the person resides there. The Congolese constitution recognizes that every Congolese shall “have the right to Congolese citizenship … [which shall not] be arbitrarily taken” away.

Kante told the online Oeil d’Afrique in an interview on Tuesday that her coverage of an attack on Cameroonian journalist Elie Smith and his family had angered Brazzaville police. She said that a friend of high-ranking police officials had threatened her after her story was published, according to the interview. Kante did not elaborate in the interview on the kind of threat she received or what was said.

Kante told CPJ from Mali that the Brazzaville police kept her handcuffed for more than two hours before deporting her and refused to allow her to take her belongings and work equipment.

Kante has also reported being threatened and attacked by Congolese police officers in recent months, according to news reports.

An aide to government spokesman Bienvenue Okiemey declined to comment to CPJ, saying the spokesman would return the call. CPJ did not immediately receive a call from the spokesman.

“The Congolese government’s decision to expel Sadio Kante from the country and tag her as an illegal resident smacks of a deliberate ploy to silence her for her journalism,” said Peter Nkanga, CPJ’s West Africa representative. “We call on authorities to reverse this decision and allow Kante to return to her country of birth and to her journalism practice.”