Michael Mukebayi

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Police arrested CongoNews editor Michael Mukebayi at his home in the capital, Kinshasa. He was charged with defamation in connection with a column published in the private bi-weekly, according to local journalists and news reports.

The police had an arrest warrant for Mukebayi and the paper’s publication director, John Tshingombe, according to the local press freedom group, the Africa Observatory for the Freedom of the Press (OLPA). The group said that Tshingombe went into hiding to avoid arrest.

The arrest stemmed from a public insult complaint filed on August 4, 2014, by Senator Francis Kaniki over an article he claimed was critical of Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya, archbishop of Kinshasa, news reports said. Kaniki is the cardinal’s younger brother. The article, which was published on July 18, 2014, with no byline, accused the archbishop of misusing the name of the Catholic Church to solicit funds and of missing a forum held in July by the International Catholic Movement for Intellectual and Cultural Affairs, a faith-based civil society group, according to news reports.

The archbishop issued a statement denying involvement in the defamation case, according to reports. He has not publicly responded to the allegations made in the original report.

On September 15, 2014, police sealed the offices of CongoNews with a warrant from the prosecutor general, according to news reports.

A Kinshasa court denied Mukebayi bail on three separate occasions, the journalist’s lawyer, Serge Mayamba, said, according to news reports.

Mukebayi was being held at Malaka Central Prison, news reports said. The trial was ongoing in late 2014.