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Journalist detained by intelligence agents in Béni

(JED/IFEX) - JED is calling on the Democratic Republic of Congo's (DRC) National Intelligence Agency (ANR) to put an end to the abuse of authority by officials at its Kasindi and Béni offices after radio reporter Maurice Lutendero was detained in Kasindi on 30 November 2009.

"A media outlet should be able to voice the public's dissatisfaction over the exorbitant increases levied on domestic electricity consumption without the intelligence services going into hysterics," said JED. "This is a clear abuse of power; there is no legislation authorising the ANR to judge press violations, if it is even possible to speak of a violation here."

According to information obtained by JED, Radio Ishango Kasindi reporter Maurice Lutendero was arrested on 30 November by ANR agents in Kasindi, about 80 km from Béni, in eastern DRC. He was later taken to Béni, where he remains in detention.

Editorial staff at the radio station said the ANR accused Lutendero of waging a "campaign" against President Joseph Kabila's public works programme on his "Réveil matinal" morning show. The journalist had criticised recent increases levied by the national utilities company (SNEL) on home electricity consumption. More precisely, he had claimed, quite rightly, that as the standard of living in Kasindi had continued to deteriorate, the population felt that the increases imposed by the SNEL were excessive.

After the show, Lutendero was summoned to ANR offices, where he was placed under arrest and transferred to Béni. There, he was questioned by an ANR officer, who accused him of "denigrating the President's public works project."

JED notes that the SNEL's new consumer billing has drawn widespread criticism, including in the capital, Kinshasa. The government was forced to ask the SNEL to postpone the proposed increases to consumer's bills.

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