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Journalist Bienvenu Yay sentenced to six-month imprisonment for defaming former governor

(JED/IFEX) - On 20 February 2009, Bienvenu Yay, an independent journalist and the Mbandaka correspondent for the Kinshasa-based, private television station Congoweb TV, was handed down a six-month sentence and ordered to pay US$2,500 in damages for slandering José Makila, deposed governor of Équateur province. Mbandaka is located in the northeastern province of Équateur.

Yay was accused of broadcasting a slanderous report, on 21 January 2009, about Makila's house arrest following an investigation into the misappropriation of 85 million Congolese francs (approx. US$120,000) intended for teachers' salaries. Makila filed a complaint, claiming that the information in the broadcast was inaccurate and that he was never placed under house arrest.

On 23 January, a Mbandaka court opened the proceedings in the absence of Yay and his lawyers, who were not notified of the trial date. The proceedings were then postponed to 30 January. On 6 and 13 February, Yay and his lawyers appeared in court. Following the 20 February ruling, Yay's lawyers have filed an appeal.

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