CPJ called on Congolese authorities to immediately release journalists Diègo Kayiba (center) and Gustave Bakuka (right) and ensure the safety of journalist Sylvain Kabongo (left) on April 14, 2023. (Photo Credits: Sylvain Kabongo, Diègo Kayiba, Grâce Mbambi)

DRC authorities detain 2 journalists, threaten another with arrest

Kinshasa, April 14, 2023–Congolese authorities should immediately release journalists Gustave Bakuka and Diègo Kayiba, ensure the safety of journalist Sylvain Kabongo, and drop all legal proceedings and investigations against them connected to their work, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Friday.

Around 9 a.m. on Friday, April 14, three Congolese National Intelligence Agency (ANR) agents arrested Bakuka, a reporter with the privately owned broadcaster Radio Mushauri, at his home in Kindu, the capital of DRC’s eastern Maniema province, according to a tweet by Kindu-based journalist Grace Mbambi and another local journalist who spoke to CPJ by phone and messaging app on the condition of anonymity, citing security concerns. 

An ANR representative told that local journalist that Bakuka was accused of “spreading false rumors” in an article he wrote and shared in a WhatsApp group discussing security issues in Kindu. Reached by phone, the ANR director in Maniema province declined to provide his name or comment on Bakuka’s arrest.

Separately, on Monday, April 10, a prosecutor in the capital, Kinshasa, summoned and detained Kayiba, a reporter with the privately owned broadcaster Kin Actu TV and privately owned news website Reportage.cd, in connection to two tweets, according to a report by privately owned news website Actungolo and Kayiba’s lawyer, who spoke to CPJ by phone and messaging app on the condition of anonymity, citing security concerns. 

“DRC authorities should immediately release and drop all investigations into the work of journalists Gustave Bakuka and Diègo Kayiba,” said Angela Quintal, CPJ’s Africa program coordinator, from New York. “Too often journalists in the DRC are faced with legal harassment and the prospect of arrest for simply doing their jobs.”

Kayiba’s tweets, which CPJ reviewed before they were removed, were posted in March and alleged that Jules Alingete Key, head of the country’s General Inspectorate of Finance, had not been transparent with his personal spending and betrayed DRC President Félix Antoine Tshisekedi with his personal presidential ambitions.

In an April 4 statement shared with local media, the General Inspectorate of Finance said Alingete had not filed a complaint against Kayiba. CPJ’s calls to the prosecutor rang unanswered. 

On April 13, Kayiba’s lawyer filed a request for the journalist’s provisional release, he said, adding that if rejected, the journalist risks being transferred from detention in the prosecutor’s office to prison.

Separately, on April 9, Jean-Calvin Mingashanga, the elected representative for the central city of Tshikapa, sent an audio message to Kabongo, a reporter with the privately owned Netic-news.net, and threatened him with arrest for publishing a “baseless article,” according to a report by his outlet and Kabongo, who spoke to CPJ via messaging app. 

The April 7 article critiqued Mingashanga’s relationship with the minister of finance and his constituents.

Mingashanga told CPJ by phone that he remains outraged by Kabongo’s article, which discredited his reputation. He said he intends to “punish” the journalist and force him not to publish similar reports.

On March 27, ANR agents in Kindu arrested journalist John Ngongo Lomango over his reporting on security issues. Authorities released Ngongo unconditionally on March 29 but kept his phone with the intention of searching it, the journalist told CPJ. 

Authorities have jailed journalist Patrick Lola in the central prison of Mbandaka since January 2022.