Kinshasa, March 28, 2023—Authorities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo should release journalist John Ngongo Lomango immediately and ensure that media can report freely on the conflict in the country’s east, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Tuesday.
On the afternoon of Monday, March 27, three officers with the National Intelligence Agency arrested Ngongo, director of Radiotélévision Evangélique Phare (RTEP) broadcaster, in the city of Kindu in the eastern province of Maniema, according to two local journalists familiar with the situation who spoke to CPJ on the condition of anonymity, citing fear for their safety.
Officers with the intelligence agency, known as the ANR, detained Ngongo at the organization’s local office and accused him of distributing false information in a March 25 RTEP broadcast, during which he reported that Angolan soldiers had arrived at the Kindu airport the previous week to assist the Congolese military in implementing a cease-fire with the M23 rebel group.
Ngongo remained in custody as of Tuesday evening without access to a lawyer, those journalists said.
“Authorities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo should immediately release journalist John Ngongo Lomango and cease all harassment of the press,” said Angela Quintal, CPJ’s Africa program coordinator, in New York. “Discussing issues related to the conflict in the eastern DRC is no reason to arrest a journalist and is inconsistent with fundamental standards of press freedom.”
When CPJ called the Kindu office of the ANR for comment, a man answered who refused to give his name and said that Ngongo was being held for security reasons related to his alleged distribution of false information, and declined to comment further.
Two local journalists attempted to visit Ngongo in detention but ANR officers refused to admit them, they told CPJ.
CPJ called Maniema Governor Idrissa Mangala for comment, but no one answered.