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Journalist sentenced in absentia to eight months in prison

(JED/IFEX) - Journalist in Danger (JED) has learned, with great concern, of the 2 November 2010 verdict by the Peace Tribunal of Kinshasa/Gombe, which sentenced a journalist to eight months in prison and heavy fines. JED is concerned about the sped up procedure that led to the conviction, without giving the journalist an opportunity to defend himself. JED supports the journalist's appeal against the ruling.

According to information received by JED, Achille Kadima Mulamba, managing editor of "AfricaNews", a privately-owned newspaper published in Kinshasa, capital of the DRC, was found guilty of defamation against Alexis Thambwe Mwamba Junior, Coordinator and National Authorising Officer of the Support Unit of the European Development Fund (Cellule d'Appui du Fonds Européen de Développement, COFED), pursuant to Article 74 of the Congolese Penal Code. In its ruling, the court also accused the journalist of "bad faith" for refusing to publish the plaintiff's right of reply.

Kadima's conviction followed the 26 October publication of an article entitled "270 million CFA vanishes from COFED. The suspect: Alexis Thambwe Mwamba". The author of the article, which was signed by a pseudonym, accused Mwamba of embezzling 270 million CFA, originally destined for COFED management and operations, including employee salaries and bonuses.

Without going into the merits of this case, JED has some reservations on the application of draconian laws that leave no opportunity for media to play their role as "watchdogs" by denouncing the mismanagement, corruption and misappropriation of public funds. In particular, under Article 74 of the Penal Code, the judge is bound neither to the truth nor falsity of the information disseminated by journalists, but rather takes into account the "honour" of the accused.

As part of the government struggle against corruption, JED urges the courts to exercise restraint in defamation cases and calls for the accelerating of the process of decriminalisation of all press offenses, except those that incite hatred and violence.

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  • Publication director acquitted of defaming provincial governor

    (JED/IFEX) - JED welcomes the 28 August 2008 ruling by the Kinshasa/Gombe Peace Court acquitting Achille Kadima Mulamba, publication director of the Kinshasa-based weekly "Africa News", who has been facing legal action since 2 July for defamation of the governor of Equateur province, José Makila, a member of the Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC) led by Senator Jean-Pierre Bemba.

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