Kinshasa, October 31, 2023—Authorities
in the Democratic Republic of Congo should immediately release and drop their criminal prosecution against journalists Blaise Mabala and Stanis Bujakera Tshiamala, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Tuesday.
On October 20, an officer with the National Intelligence Agency (ANR) arrested Mabala, radio coordinator with the privately owned Même Morale FM and correspondent with the privately owned website okapinews.net, and detained him at a military camp in Inongo, capital of the western Mai-Ndombe Province, according to Okapinews.net and a member of the Union Nationale de la Presse du Congo, who spoke to CPJ on the condition of anonymity, citing security concerns.
On October 23, Mabala appeared at the Inongo high court, where he was accused of insulting a provincial government official, according to the UNPC member. If found guilty, Mabala faces up to nine months in prison, according to Section 136 of the penal code.
The charges relate to an October 18 program Mabala hosted on Même Morale FM, during which listeners called in and criticized Rita Bola, the governor of Mai-Ndombe Province, according to news reports. The program, which CPJ reviewed, also included a song criticizing Bola and comments by Jacks Bombaka, Maï-Ndombe’s vice-governor who owns Même Morale FM, alleging Bola’s incompetence and involvement in embezzlement of public funds.
Separately, journalist Stanis Bujakera remains in detention in Kinshasa, the national capital, since September 8, and is expected back in court on November 3. Bujakera is a permanent resident of the United States, deputy director of local news website Actualite.cd, and a correspondent for Reuters and the private news website Jeune Afrique, and faces several charges related to a Jeune Afrique report about the military intelligence’s possible involvement in the murder of a minister, which the outlet said Bujakera did not write.
“The arrest and detention of journalist Blaise Mabala over a broadcast critical of the governor of Mai-Ndombe Province sends a chilling message to members of the press across the Democratic Republic of Congo, who are already reeling over the prosecution of journalist Stanis Bujakera,” said Angela Quintal, CPJ’s Africa program coordinator, in New York. “Authorities in the DRC should swiftly reform the country’s legislation to ensure journalists cannot be jailed for critical commentary.”
Mabala had previously played the song criticizing Bola and was warned by the ANR not to air it again, the press union member told CPJ.
CPJ’s calls and messages to Bola and the provincial director of the ANR in Inongo Province did not receive a response.
The Democratic Republic of Congo is due to hold elections on December 20, in which President Felix Tshisikedi is expected to run for a second term against opposition leader Martin Fayulu, who claimed victory in the 2018 vote, and Nobel-winning gynecologist Denis Mukwege, among others.