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Journalist detained briefly in Kinshasa by censorship commission

(JED/IFEX) - Oboul Okwess, a journalist with Numerica TV, a private broadcaster based in the capital, Kinshasa, was briefly detained on 28 September 2007 by three judicial police officers possessing a summons and acting on behalf of the national censorship commission.

Arrested at his home in the municipality of Kalamu in the early hours of the morning, the journalist was immediately taken to the Kinshasa/Gombe public prosecutor's office, site of the commission's headquarters, where he was questioned by a judicial police officer before being locked up for four hours.

As soon as JED became aware of the situation, a representative of the organisation went to the prosecutor's office and learned that the journalist was being prosecuted, as Numerica TV's presumed programme director, following the broadcast in recent days of an advertisement that was not authorised by the commission and which promoted a private school in Kinshasa. The investigating officer cited a directive from the censorship commission sent some time ago to all audiovisual organisations, in which the commission considered criminally responsible the programme director in case of any broadcasts of unauthorised or prohibited footage by a station. In response to this accusation, the journalist emphasised that he recently stopped being the station's programme director.

Reached by phone by JED, a Numerica TV representative acknowledged having received a "document" a few days earlier from the censorship commission listing various taxes to pay to the commission. But "this document had nothing to do with the broadcast of unauthorised or prohibited programmes," he said, while denouncing the "illegal detention."

According to information obtained by JED, the same journalist was detained in June 2007, while he was still serving as programme director, by the same censorship commission following the station's broadcast of a concert by a Congolese musician.

Following the questioning, the judicial police officer ordered Numerica TV to regularise its situation within two days, otherwise he would be obliged to detain the current programme director.

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