New York, November 8, 2023—The Committee to Protect Journalists is alarmed by the Democratic Republic of Congo authorities’ insistence on keeping journalist Stanis Bujakera Tshiamala behind bars and urges the approval of a second expert opinion on the evidence presented against him in the interest of fairness.
On Tuesday, the Kinshasa/Gombe court rejected Bujakera’s third request for provisional release, one of the journalist’s lawyers, Charles Mushizi, told CPJ. Mushizi rejected the prosecutor’s argument that Bujakera would flee the country if released, saying that the journalist had no intention of doing so. The next trial date is scheduled for November 17.
Mushizi told CPJ that Bujakera’s lawyers had also asked the court to permit a second expert opinion on the evidence presented against the journalist, saying that the expert “would bring the truth.” Ndikulu Yana, another of Bujakera’s lawyers, told CPJ a decision on this request was expected on November 13.
“The ongoing detention and prosecution of journalist Stanis Bujakera is an egregious violation of press freedom in the DRC, and the repeated rejection of Bujakera’s requests for provisional release only adds insult to injury,” Angela Quintal, CPJ’s Africa program coordinator, said on Wednesday. “Authorities must not further deepen the injustice of Bujakera’s prosecution and should approve his lawyers’ request to give a second expert opinion on the evidence presented against him.”
Bujakera is a permanent U.S. resident and works as a correspondent for the privately owned Jeune Afrique news website and Reuters news agency in the DRC. He is also deputy director of publication for the DRC-based news website Actualite.cd. Police arrested Bujakera in Kinshasa on September 8 and authorities charged him under the penal and digital codes.
The charges against him relate to an August 31 Jeune Afrique report about the military intelligence’s possible involvement in the murder of a former minister, which the outlet said Bujakera did not write.
Both DRC President Félix Tshisekedi and Minister of Communication Patrick Muyaya have said they would not intervene in Bujakera’s case, citing the separation of powers between the judiciary and the executive.
CPJ calls to the office of the prosecutor received no response. In judicial investigations like the one against Bujakera, the prosecution is not legally permitted to comment publicly.
Separately, on Tuesday, a court in Inongo, capital of the DRC’s western Mai-Ndombe Province, conditionally released Blaise Mabala, a radio coordinator with the privately owned Même Morale FM and correspondent with the privately owned website okapinews.net, Mabala told CPJ.
Mabala said he paid bail of 1 million Congolese francs (US$386), must appear at the prosecutor’s office every Tuesday and Friday, and his next court date had not been set. Intelligence officers arrested Mabala on October 20 and accused him of insulting a provincial government official during a radio broadcast he hosted.