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Journalist accused of being spy for Congolese rebel group

Reporters Without Borders is very worried by radio journalist Blaise Bahisha's detention for the past eight days in Goma, the capital of the eastern province of Nord-Kivu. Bahisha was until recently the manager of Radio Sauti ya Rutchuru, a community radio station in Rutchuru, 70 km north of Goma.

The national police arrested Bahisha on 17 April and handed him over to Nord-Kivu's military court a few days later. He is accused of spying for the M23 rebels and “participating in an insurrectional movement.”

“The paranoia of the Congolese security forces is the sole reason for Bahisha's arrest,” Reporters Without Borders said. “He is innocent. There are no grounds for thinking he was an M23 spy. On the contrary, he fled the town of Rutchuru to escape the pressure that the rebels were putting on him and his radio station.

“His arrest and the charges brought against him are grotesque and unjust, and have just contributed to the already difficult situation in which he founds himself. We urge the Nord-Kivu military court to release him without delay.”

According to the information obtained by Reporters Without Borders from its partner organisation Journalist in Danger and several local sources, Bahisha fled to Goma on 30 March after M23 members threatened him in Rutchuru. The town's rebel-backed administrator, Benjamin M'Ponimpa, replaced him as the station's manager because of his reluctance to broadcast M23's anti-government propaganda.

Bahisha was charged with “spying and gravely endangering state security” on 23 April. The authorities say he was found in possession of a computer that had been stolen by the M23 rebels. He has been asked to pay the sum of 1,000 dollars (800 euros).

When reached by Reporters Without Borders, the Nord-Kivu military court's prosecutor said: “If the charges against him are not established, I will order his immediate release. If they are, we will recommend granting him a provisional release.”

He added: “We are in the process of working calmly on this case, with his lawyers. I am awaiting instructions from Kinshasa. I think he could be released by Saturday (27 April).”

More information on media freedom in the Democratic Republic of Congo.