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Taxis in Kinshasa in June 2019. Police in the Democratic Republic of Congo capital detained a journalist for five days over a criminal defamation complaint. (AFP/John Wessels)

Congolese journalist detained for five days over defamation complaint

November 6, 2019 3:56 PM ET

On October 21, 2019, police arrested Achiko Ngaya, editor of the privately owned newspaper Les Nouvelles du Soir, in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ngaya told CPJ. The journalist said he was detained for five days and charged with criminal defamation.

The journalist told CPJ he was arrested over a complaint that the DRC office of Ecobank, a Togo-based bank, filed in relation to an August 9, 2019 Les Nouvelles du Soir report about its customer service.

Ngaya said that police arrested him at a Kinshasa hospital, where he was picking up a prescription for diabetes. He was held briefly in a court holding cell before being transferred to a police station.

The journalist said he was in pain during his detention because he was denied access to medical treatment. He said that he was not allowed to call someone to have medicine delivered, and that he was arrested before he could renew his insulin prescription at the hospital.

Following an October 23 negotiation between Ngaya’s lawyer, Bazin Mpembe Ndjale, and representatives of Ecobank, the bank agreed to drop its complaint on condition that Les Nouvelles du Soir published the bank’s response to the August 9 report; that Les Nouvelles du Soir paid to run the bank’s response in the privately-owned and widely-read Congo Nouveau newspaper; and that the journalist paid the bank’s legal fees, Ngaya’s lawyer told CPJ.

Les Nouvelles du Soir agreed to the conditions, but Ngaya was not released until October 26 and as of November 6, 2019, the public prosecutor had maintained the defamation charge against the journalist, Ndjale told CPJ.

Ngaya and his lawyer told CPJ that police released the journalist under condition that he remain available for further questioning.

Elir Odio, a representative for Ecobank DRC, confirmed to CPJ that the bank dropped the complaint.

Victor Mumba Mukomo, a deputy prosecutor in charge of Ngaya’s case, did not immediately respond to CPJ’s October 25, 2019 email asking why the prosecutor retained the charge after the bank dropped its complaint. CPJ’s calls to Mukomo on October 25 and 28, 2019 appeared to connect, but the line remained silent.

Ndjale told CPJ a court date had not been scheduled.

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