DRC journalists set free after police detention

The reporters were held after publishing articles about alleged misappropriation of rations for police cadets.

    Congolese police have been accused of using brute force against the opposition before elections in December [File: Reuters]
    Congolese police have been accused of using brute force against the opposition before elections in December [File: Reuters]

    Five journalists arrested by the police in the Democratic Republic of the Congo have been released after 12 hours of interrogation.

    The journalists were picked up on Friday after publishing articles about alleged misappropriation of rations for police cadets, their newspaper said.

    They have been allowed to leave and told to return on Monday with AfricaNews managing editor Achille Kadima, the police said in a statement on Saturday.

    "It is unbelievable and very disturbing that the police have arrested journalists who revealed that a police investigation was being conducted into alleged misappropriation," said Arnaud Froger, head of Reporters Without Borders' (RSF) Africa desk.

    The journalists, Octave Mukendi, Bruce Landu, Roddy Bosakwa, Dan Luyila and Laurent Omba, "just did their job by informing the public that an investigation was under way", Froger said.

    The journalists had been working at the offices of the tri-weekly newspaper overnight to finish the latest edition when they were arrested on the premises.

    The officers who took them did not show any documents, Kadima told the AFP news agency, adding that he had gone into hiding.

    Earlier, he had written a letter to the national police chief complaining that police had conducted a "roundup" of copies of AfricaNews from newsstands.

    Media clampdown

    On the front page of the current issue, the paper carried a story on an inquiry into misappropriation of police cadet rations.

    The detentions followed a series of prosecutions of journalists in the DRC, which is just two months away from tense elections to replace President Joseph Kabila.

    DRC ranks 154th out of 180 countries on the press freedoms index compiled by RSF.

    On Wednesday, RSF also sounded the alarm over the case of reporter Sylvanie Kiaku, of the weekly La Percee, who has been detained for more than a week on charges of defamation, over two articles she wrote about redundancies at a local bank.

    This year, around 20 journalists have been harassed or arrested in the DRC, according to Joseph-Boucard Kasonga, president of the UNPC national press union.

    SOURCE: AFP news agency