The Republic of the Congo’s security services arrested Ghys Fortuné Dombé Bemba, editor of the privately owned newspaper Talassa, in Brazzaville on January 11, 2017, according to Radio France Internationale.
Congolese Public Prosecutor André Oko Ngakala said in a statement the following day that Bemba was under investigation for “complicity in undermining state security” in connection with Frédéric Bintsamou, also known as Pastor Ntumi, a former rebel leader who the government has accused of terrorism.
After Bemba’s arrest, various news outlets reported that the journalist’s paper had published a statement by Pastor Ntumi, been critical of the military, and had allegedly angered the head of the state-run press regulator. Local news reports said Bemba’s arrest could have been linked to reports calling for Congolese authorities to force elderly military officials into retirement.
Radio France Internationale reported that Bemba had allegedly angered Philippe Mvouo, head of the press regulator High Council for Freedom of Communication, with an article Talassa about an aborted meeting between Congo’s President Denis Sassou N’Guesso and then U.S. President-elect Donald Trump. Mvouo told Radio France Internationale that Bemba’s arrest was not connected to his journalism.
Congolese outlet Brazza News reported that officials visited Bemba at his office two days before his arrest in connection with several articles published in Talassa.
Bemba was being held at a local police station, reports said. CPJ could not determine if he had been charged. When CPJ reached public prosecutor André Ngakala Oko by phone on October 10, 2017, he hung up when Bemba’s name was mentioned. CPJ’s September 2017 email to Ngakala requesting comment went unanswered.
On September 16, 2017, CPJ and fellow press freedom advocacy group Reporters Sans Frontières wrote a joint letter to President Sassou Nguesso calling for Bemba’s release. As of late in the year, the letter had not received a response.
Art by Jack Forbes