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Second journalist arrested for broadcasting news of army defections in DR Congo

UPDATE: Journalist held by intelligence agency released after four months (JED, 18 December 2012)

Journalist Pierre Sosthène Kambidi of Radio Télévision Chrétienne (RTC), a religious TV station based in Kananga, capital of the central province of Kasaï Occidental, was released at around 2 p.m. on 15 December after being held for four months without trial at a detention centre operated by the National Intelligence Agency (ANR) in Kinshasa.

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(JED/IFEX) - 28 August 2012 – Pierre Sosthène Kambidi, a journalist and editor with Radio Télévision Chrétienne (RTC), a religious station broadcasting in Kananga, capital of Western Kasai province (central Democratic Republic of Congo), was arrested on 28 August 2012, at around 10:00 pm local time, by a group of men claiming to be officials from the National Intelligence Agency (ANR). The men were driving a jeep with tinted windows. Kambidi was reportedly taken to the security services offices. No contact could be established to determine the reason for the arrest.

RTC station director Charles Boniface Bayakwabo confirmed Kambidi's arrest to JED. He also confirmed threats made against Patrick Bianyaka, a journalist from the same station. "My two colleagues have been receiving phone threats for almost two weeks, and [Kambidi] has been arrested without any valid reason," Bayakwabo said.

In the messages sent to the journalists, they were told to "prepare their coffins".

According to information received by JED, Kambidi and Bianyaka have been receiving death threats by phone since 17 August, the day after RTC aired part of a Radio Okapi interview with former Congolese army (FARDC) Colonel John Tshibangu during its French newscast. In the interview, Tshibangu announced the creation of an armed movement called the “Movement for ballot box truth".

During the broadcast, Valentin Mubake, a member of opposition party Union pour la Démocratie et le Progrès Social (UPDS), reacted to the defection of the former FARDC colonel saying, "This is the beginning of the end of the President Kabila's illegal regime."

JED expresses its deep concern for the physical safety of these two journalists and calls for Kambidi's immediate release in the event his arrest was linked to his journalistic work.

JED notes that Kambidi is the second journalist to be arrested for discussing Tshibangu's defection. The first was Fortunat Kasongo of Radio Télévision Autonome Sud Kasaï (RTAS). The same security services arrested Kasongo on 14 August in Miabi, Eastern Kasai province, before transferring him to Kinshasa.

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