hree journalists freed but problems persist in eastern DRC
The Radio Liberté presenter Kashigwe Binjamin, known as Pilipili Kasai, who was arrested at his home on 13 May, was released on bail four days ago. Although he has issued an apology, he does not know whether legal proceedings brought by the military prosecutor have been dropped.
Equipment confiscated from Radio Liberté, located in Butembo, in North Kivu province, was returned on the orders of the military prosecutor responsible for the case, Charles Kibenga, but whether the station resumes broadcasting is dependent on the mayor of Butembo, Théodore Sikuli Uvasaka, lifting a three-month closure order. (For more information visit here:)
The mayor told Reporters without Borders: “We are currently holding talks with observers and journalists and we shall assess whether or not to lift the temporary broadcasting ban on the station.” However, he remained vague on when this would take place.
Reporters Without Borders said: “We welcome these two conciliatory gestures towards the media but Kashigwe Binjamin is still on probation. At the same time, we have reservations about the future of Radio Liberté, which remains under a three-month suspension.
“Instead of resorting to bans and arrests, the political and military leadership in Butembo must deepen its political dialogue with journalists to seek a solution to this dangerous situation for press freedom in a region that has a fundamental need for news and information.”
On 13 May, the mayor ordered the station’s closure for three months on the grounds that it was broadcasting news that could demoralize the armed forces. Around the same time, Binjamin was arrested at his home because of two interviews he carried out a week earlier in which two rebel military commanders announced the resumption of hostilities.
Reporters Without Borders notes that Sébastien Mulamba and Mbuyi Mukadi, respectively news editor and publisher of Kisangani News, were released from custody on 23 May. The two journalists were accused of libel and spent two weeks in Kisangani prison. The member of parliament Alphonse Awenze, who is referred to in the disputed article, dropped his suit. (For more information visit: )
“Naturally we are pleased that the two journalists have been released, but we must point out that they should not have spent a single day in prison,” the press freedom organization said.
“Deprivation of liberty is a disproportionate and dangerous response to press offences and encourages intimidation of the media. We urge the authorities to decriminalize defamation and the two sides to employ self-regulation wherever possible.”