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Second journalist sentenced in absentia

(RSF/IFEX) – On 10 November 2010, Reporters sans frontières (RSF) and Journaliste en Danger (JED), its partner organisation in the Democractic Republic of Congo, wrote to justice and human rights minister Luzolo Bambi Lessa concerning the recent sentencing of two journalists.

On 2 November, Achille Kadima Mulamba, managing editor for Africa News, was sentenced in absentia by a lower court in Kinshasa to eight months in prison and a US$10,000 fine following a defamation complaint brought by Alexis Thambwe Mwamba Junior, the local administrator of a European development fund. The same day, Kambale Maghaniryo – also known as El Kate – of Radio Télévision Gabren Beni (RTGB), was also sentenced in absentia to a 24-month prison term. Maghaniryo was found guilty of making slanderous allegations following a complaint brought by a certain Captain Bokwala, a border police chief in Béni. The ruling was handed down in the absence of the journalist and his lawyer, blocking any possible appeal. Maghaniryo has since gone into hiding.

RSF and JED do not take a position on the legitimacy of the claims against the two journalists; rather the two groups wish to express concern over a decision which threatens press freedom by diminishing the role of media in its efforts to combat corruption and support good governance.

RSF and JED call for a reform of the country's press laws to safeguard press freedom and democracy.

RSF and JED also reminded the minister in their letter that 29 other IFEX members signed on to a letter to President Joseph Kabila on 14 September, calling for an end to the imprisonment of journalists for press offences in the run up to the 2011 presidential elections.

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