Plainclothes agents of the Congolese National Intelligence Agency, known by its French acronym as ANR, seized Ponte in the capital, Kinshasa, in connection with political stories in his biweekly paper that were critical of President Joseph Kabila.
The November 30, 2007, edition of L’Interprète included columns criticizing Kabila’s leadership, while several articles in the February 29, 2008, edition discussed the president’s health, according to CPJ research.
Intelligence agents arrested Ponte’s assistant, Tondo, on March 29 and detained both men incommunicado and without charge for nearly three months. Ponte and Tondo were taken to court on June 6 and charged with spreading false rumors, threatening state security, and offending the head of state, according to local press freedom group Journaliste en Danger. In a letter to Congolese Justice and Human Rights Minister Symphorien Mutombo Bakafua Nsenda in June, CPJ appealed for the release of both newsmen.
The letter followed reports of Ponte’s poor health and a government prosecutor’s admission that the months-long pretrial detentions were illegal. A verdict in the trial was pending in late year. The two were being held at Kinshasa’s Penal and Re-education 72 Center.