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Wave of interrogations, harassment sparks new concerns for press freedom

(JED/IFEX) – Kinshasa, 14 April 2010 - JED is expressing serious concern over a recent wave of interrogations and harassment of journalists in Kinshasa and other provinces in the country. JED is calling on security officials and judicial authorities to show restraint and refrain from inflaming an already tense situation for media professionals following the killing of reporter Patient Chebeya Bankome last week in North Kivu province.

Over the past week, at least two journalists were arrested and held in police custody, four others were questioned at length by intelligence officials in Kinshasa, and a television station was raided by police and had its broadcast signal cut, according to JED.

The targets include:

1. Jullson Eninga, managing director of the daily "Le Journal", who was arrested on 13 April 2010 and held at the prosecutor's office of the Kinshasa district court. Eninga had gone to the prosecutor's office in response to a summons by the attorney general regarding "Le Journal"'s decision to publish, without commentary, a statement by the FDLR (Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda), the Hutu rebel forces operating in the east of the country, in September 2009. "Le Journal" has been charged with "spreading propaganda" for the FDLR.

2. Popol Ntula Vita, publisher of the Boma-based weekly "Le Tonnerre", who was arrested at the Boma District Court prosecutor's office when he responded to a summons on 13 April following a complaint by Boma Mayor Marie Josée Niongo Nsuami. The complaint stems from a piece published in the 13 March issue of the paper which called on the provincial assembly to launch a parliamentary enquiry into the operations of various public services in the city, including those in the mayor's office. Ntula is currently being held at the Boma central prison.

3. Radio-télévision Kintaudi (RTK), a denominational broadcaster owned by the Kimbanguiste church, which was raided by at least a dozen officers in the early hours of 14 April. The officers surrounded the RTK's headquarters in Binza/Pigeon and cut the station's signal; no one was allowed in or out of the building. Three technicians, Pitchou Wanketama, Papy Dinganga and Christophe Nseka, were arrested in the raid and taken to an unknown location. No official explanation was given for the raid but an RTK staffer told JED the incident may have been the result of a conflict between two divergent factions of the church.

4. Journalists Alain Kiuka, Jean Louis Miasuekama, Jean Dénis Bakonga and Dieumerci Nzob, from the private television station Antenne A, who were questioned at length by intelligence officials between 10 and 13 April after the station reported in its evening newscast that an ad hoc commission had been struck to negotiate a peace deal between Enyelé insurgents and villagers in the town of Mbandaka, in Equateur province.

JED notes that the sudden decline in press freedoms in the country comes only days after the president's special security advisor confirmed the president's commitment to press freedom and journalists' safety in the wake of the Chebeya killing.

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