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Journalist arrested and jailed following publication of articles critical of Mining Ministry

(JED/IFEX) - Maurice Kayombo, a journalist with "Les Grands Enjeux", a monthly investigative magazine printed in South Africa and distributed in Kinshasa and Lubumbashi, has been detained for the past week in a holding cell of the Kinshasa/Gombe High Court. Officially, the journalist has been charged with blackmail and "disparaging an official" following a complaint lodged by Christophe Kaninio, the secretary-general of the Mining Ministry. Kayombo was arrested on 9 January 2008 by police officers in the offices of the secretary-general of the ministry after the journalist responded to an invitation by the official to verify information he had obtained.

Kayombo was initially held for three nights at the internal affairs section of the judicial police in Kinshasa/Gombe before being taken on 12 January to the Kinshasa/Gombe High Court, where a JED representative met with him on 14 January. "Once inside the offices of the secretary-general, he brought in about 20 people acting as presidential security agents. Then I knew I had been ambushed," Kayombo told JED.

According to information obtained by JED, "Les Grands Enjeux", which has ties to political and financial interests in Katanga, had for several weeks been investigating allegations of mismanagement of the mining sector in the Democratic Republic of Congo. In its November 2007 edition, commenting on a report about the commissioning of mining contracts, the magazine denounced what it called "huge financial swindling" and "clientelism, complicity and dictates from the political authorities in questionable and clearly unfair deals."

When JED contacted Kaninio to learn about the motives behind Kayombo's arrest, the secretary-general of mining claimed that he did not wish to discuss the matter over the telephone. One of his assistants, who had been contacted beforehand, declared that "journalists must not mess around with the authorities."

JED urges the judicial authorities to order the unconditional release of Maurice Kayombo if it is proven that he was arrested for performing his professional duties. JED also calls for the journalist to appear before an independent judge without delay and to be granted the possibility of defending himself with lawyers of his choice.

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