Stanis Bujakera Tshiamala, a correspondent for Jeune Afrique, was arrested on September 8, 2023, over the news website’s report about the military intelligence’s possible involvement in the murder of an opposition politician, which the outlet said Bujakera did not write. As of late 2023, he was awaiting trial on charges of spreading falsehoods and forgery. The court rejected multiple requests to release the journalist on bail.
Bujakera, a Congolese citizen and a permanent U.S. resident, is a correspondent for privately owned Jeune Afrique and Reuters news agency, as well as being deputy director of publication for the DRC-based news website Actualite.cd, according to his wife, Armelle Tshiamala, who spoke to CPJ, and those outlets.
On September 8, 2023, police officers arrested Bujakera at N’djili airport in the capital, Kinshasa, according to Le Congo Libéré news website and Bujakera’s lawyer at the time, Hervé Diakiese, who added that the journalist’s two phones and laptop were confiscated and he was accused of “spreading false rumors” and “disseminating false information.”
On September 9, Bujakera was interrogated by members of a government commission set up to investigate the July assassination of former transport minister Chérubin Okende, according to Jeune Afrique and Actualité.cd
Jeune Afrique said Bujakera did not write its August 31 article about the possible involvement of the National Intelligence Agency in Okende’s murder, which the outlet said was based on a leaked confidential note written by the intelligence agency. Congolese officials rejected the article as “false.”
Okende was a spokesperson for the opposition Ensemble pour la Republique, headed by Moise Katumbi who announced that he would stand against President Felix Tshisekedi in DRC’s December 20 elections.
On September 11, authorities charged Bujakera with spreading falsehoods, forgery, the use of forged documents, and distributing false documents under the combined application of the DRC’s penal code and a new digital code and press law—introduced in April, which criminalized the sharing of “false news”—according to lawyer Diakiese and news reports. Each charge carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison.
On September 14, he was transferred to Kinshasa’s Makala Prison.
On September 25, October 18, and November 7, the court denied Bujakera’s requests to be released on bail, saying that the journalist would flee the country if released, an argument that Bujakera’s lawyers rejected.
On November 17, Bujakera’s request for a second expert opinion on the evidence presented against him was approved. But on December 1, the court imposed an expert of its own choosing.
The next trial date was scheduled for January 12, 2024, according to one of Bujakera’s lawyers, Ndikulu Yana.
President Tshisekedi said on September 19 and Minister of Communication Patrick Muyaya said on October 3 that they would not intervene in Bujakera’s case, citing the separation of powers between the judiciary and the executive.
As of late 2023, CPJ’s phone calls to the office of the prosecutor did not receive any replies. Neither the prosecutor nor public officials can comment publicly on ongoing trials in DRC.