Junior Supa, a technician with the privately owned Radio Liberté Buta (RALIB) in the northeastern Bas-Uele province of the Democractic Republic of the Congo (DRC), was arrested on November 28, 2019, by Congolese national police who entered the radio station as he was working to broadcast a political program. He spent one night in police custody before being transferred to Bas-Uele central prison.
At the time of his arrest, Supa was working to broadcast a pre-recorded program involving Gilbert Mokoto Amangalakato, vice president of the Bas-Uele provincial assembly, according to reports by local press freedom groups Journalistes En Danger (JED) and L’Observatoire de la Liberté de la Presse en Afrique (OLPA).
The broadcast criticized governance in the province, according to OLPA and Dieu Merci Thuambe Adubang’o, editor and director general of the privately owned Le Coq de l’est basé online newspaper based in DRC’s neighboring Haut-Uele province, who spoke to CPJ via messaging app and phone and has followed the case closely.
Police seized Supa, along with broadcasting equipment from the radio station, and took him to the police station before he was transferred to Bas-Uele central prison on November 29, 2019, according to JED. The police also closed the radio station, according to Thuambe and the same JED report.
A summons was also issued for Kasikila, according to the JED report and Inga.
“Junior is in police custody pending the arrival of director of Radio Liberté,” Floribert Inga, minister of communication and government spokesperson, told CPJ over messaging app, adding that Supa told authorities he was not responsible for recording Mokoto.
CPJ’s calls in early December to Jules Kasikila, Radio Liberté Buta’s director, did not connect.
Inga also told CPJ that Supa’s arrest was justified because, “The radio broadcast messages of incitement against provincial institutions and disturbing the public order,” referencing sections nine and 10 of the DRC’s press law of 1996. The two sections of the law pertain to conditions for the media to refrain from disturbing “public order.” When asked if Supa was formally charged, Inga said he awaited the judgment of the Public Prosecutor’s Office on the offense of “breach of public order and outrage to justice.”
As of late 2019, CPJ’s messages via WhatsApp and text to Dodo Tshinyama, provincial commissioner of the Congolese National Police in Buta, went unanswered.