(RSF/IFEX) - In a letter to Justice Minister Mwenze Kongolo, RSF protested the sentencing of Emile-Aimé Kakese Vinalu, editor of the weekly "Le Carrousel" and Jean-Pierre Mukuna Ekanga, editor of the newspaper "La Tribune de la Nation", to two years in prison and of Richard Nsamba Olangi, publisher of the newspaper "Le Messager Africain", to a one-year suspended prison sentence. The organisation asked the minister to release the first two. RSF noted that in an 18 January 2000 report, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights stated that "imprisonment as punishment for the peaceful expression of an opinion constitutes a serious violation of human rights". "Once again the authorities of the Democratic Republic of Congo have sentenced journalists to prison. Since Laurent-Désiré Kabila came to power in May 1997, more than 120 journalists have been imprisoned in this country", added Robert Ménard, RSF's secretary-general.
According to information obtained by RSF, on 12 September, Kakese and Mukuna were sentenced to two years in prison by the Court of Military Order (Cour d'ordre militaire, COM) in Kinshasa/Gombe. They were taken to the Kinshasa Penitentiary and Re-education Centre. As for Nsamba, he was given a one year suspended prison sentence. The COM, which acts as a court of first and last resort, found them guilty of "high treason" and "publication of articles hostile to the government".
On 24 June, Kakese was arrested by the special services of the police, before being taken to the premises of the National Information Agency (Agence nationale de renseignements, ANR) in Kinshasa. He was charged for the publication of two articles in the 20 June edition of "Le Carrousel". The first, entitled "The Congolese opposition: after three years of resistance, unity is imperative", denounced the impossibility for the Congolese opposition to express itself. The second, entitled "Conflict at the top: dispute between Laurent-Désiré Kabila and Victor M'Poyo", questioned the reasons behind the split between the head of State and his minister of petroleum.
Nsamba and Mukunga were arrested on 15 and 17 August respectively. Nsamba was interrogated about, among other things, his relationship with Kakese and Mukuna. As for Mukuna, he was questioned following the publication of a series of articles in which he spoke of "Nazi and bandit journalism". In the opinion of the public prosecutor's office, the journalist "should in a time of war, act loyally toward the country's leaders and institutions". The journalist clarified that "Nazi and bandit journalism" alluded to the writings of the pro-government daily "L'Avenir".