CJFE protests arrests of journalists in the Democratic Republic of Congo

Thursday, May 13, 1999

CJFE protests arrests of journalists in the Democratic Republic of Congo

His Excellency Laurent-Desire Kabila
President of the Democratic Republic of Congo
Presidential Palace, Kinshasa
Democratic Republic of Congo
Fax: +243 88 02120/ +1 202 234 2609

13 May 1999

President Kabila,

On behalf of Canadian Journalists for Free Expression, a non-profit, non-governmental organization dedicated to eradicating censorship worldwide, I would like to impress upon you our concerns about the recent wave of jailings that threaten freedom of expression in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Stephane Kitutu O'Leontwa is the most recent victim of Congolese censorship. President of the professional organization Union de la Presse du Congo (Congolese Press Union (UPC), he was detained by police on 8 May 1999 and placed in solitary confinement at the judicial building in Kinshasa-Gombe. Kiutu O'Leontwa is allegedly being held instead of a journalist from the newspaper "Pot Pourri," who was using the UPC headquarters as its official address without the organization's permission. Security officials are presently searching for the "Pot Pourri" journalist who penned three articles deemed slanderous due to their satirical portrayal of the government in general and Kabila in particular.

Thierry Kyalumba, editor of the bi-weekly Vision, remains in jail after being sentenced to four years in prison with no parole on 30 March 1999. Charged with compromising state security in relation to an article entitled "Eighty tonnes of Ugandan Missiles for the Kasai Front," Kyalumba has been detained since 12 January.

CJFE is pleased about the release of Gustave Kalenga, editor-in-chief with "La Flamme du Congo" newspaper. Kalenga, who was discharged from Makala central prison on 5 May 1999, had been sentenced on 3 April to an eight-month prison sentence for slander. The trial was annulled after the charges against him were withdrawn by the company Miniere de Bawanga, who were incensed at reports that senior employees were responsible for misappropriating funds and stealing diamonds.

Despite Kalenga's release, the Democratic Republic of Congo has much work to do in terms of press freedom. CJFE believes that both Kiutu O'Leontwa and Thierry Kyalumba are being held because your government fears negative press, not slander or threats to state security, as is alleged. CJFE will continue to monitor the plight of these and other journalists in your country and take action as it sees fit.

Yours truly,
Wayne Sharpe
Executive Director

Cc: Mission of the Democratic Republic of Congo to the United Nations
Fax: +1 212 319 8232

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