Five journalists at a newspaper in the Democratic Republic of Congo were “abducted” on Friday, their managing editor said, after the publication of articles on the misappropriation of rations for police cadets.
The detentions followed a series of prosecutions of journalists in the troubled nation, which is just two months away from tense elections to replace President Joseph Kabila.
“The police proceeded early this morning to abduct five journalists from AfricaNews. Octave Mukendi, Bruce Landu, Roddy Bosakwa, Dan Luyila and Laurent Omba were taken to an unknown destination,” AfricaNews managing editor Achille Kadima said in a statement.
DR Congo ranks 154th out of 180 countries on the press freedoms index compiled by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and the media watchdog called for the immediate release of the five journalists.
“It is unbelievable and very disturbing that the police have arrested journalists who revealed that a police investigation was being conducted into alleged misappropriation,” said Arnaud Froger, the head of RSF’s Africa desk.
“These journalists just did their job by informing the public that an investigation was underway. They have no place being detained and must be released at once.”
Journalists Harrassed, Arrested
The journalists had worked at the office of the tri-weekly newspaper overnight to finish the latest edition and were arrested on the premises.
The officers who took them did not show any documents, Kadima told AFP, adding that he had gone into hiding.
Earlier, he had written a letter to the national police chief complaining that police had conducted a “roundup” of copies of AfricaNews from newsstands.
On the front page of the current issue, the paper carried a story on an inquiry into misappropriation of police cadet rations, adding the head of the country’s police academies had been summoned.
General Celestin Kanyama is under sanctions by the United States, which accused him of responsibility for a 2013-2014 police operation in which at least 50 young men and boys were reportedly killed and more than 30 others were forcibly “disappeared”.
When approached by AFP over the case of the reporters, Kanyama said: “Stop your bullshit. Do not quote me over things I know nothing about.”
This year around 20 journalists have been harassed or arrested in DR Congo, said Joseph-Boucard Kasonga, president of the UNPC national press union.
RSF on Wednesday also sounded the alarm over the case of reporter Sylvanie Kiaku, of the weekly La Percee, who has been detained for more than a week on charges of defamation, over two articles she wrote about redundancies at a local bank.