Congo detains female newspaper editor

A female journalist Sylvanie Kiaku has been detained in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo on charges of criminal defamation.

Kiaku, the editor of the privately owned weekly newspaper, La Percée was arrested on October 10, 2018 on her way home from work by officers of Kinshasa’s judicial police after an arrest warrant was issued by a local magistrate in Kinshasa. The female newspaper editor was arrested in connection with two articles she published in La Percée on September 6 and September 13 regarding unpaid salaries of employees at a major Kinshasa bank for more than 10 years. The said articles highlighted the negative consequences of the unpaid salaries on the families of the bank’s employees, and accused the bank’s current managers of alleged indifference to the plight of bank workers.

Sylvanie Kiaku is editor of the privately owned weekly newspaper, La Percée.

A local press freedom group,  L’Observatoire pour la Liberté de la Presse en Afrique reports that Kiaku was held in a cell at Kinshasa’s Gombe Peace Court before being taken to the prosecutor’s office and charged with criminal defamation on Friday. Her lawyer, Dieudoné Mpoyo also told journalists that Kiaku was transferred Friday night to Kinshasa’s Central Prison because she was not able to immediately pay a US$1,000 bail fee set by the magistrate court on Friday afternoon.

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has issued a statement on Friday calling on Congolese authorities to release Kiaku without charge. CPJ’s Africa Program Coordinator, Angela Quintal said the DRC should “abolish criminal defamation in line with international standards and ensure that journalists are free to report on matters of public interest without fear of reprisal.”

Kiaku was previously arrested on April 8, 2011, and spent 24 hours in detention on similar criminal defamation charges for an article denouncing a surge in vandalism in Kinshasa by gangs of young boys commonly known as Kuluna. The 2011 defamation charges were all dropped following pressure from local and international press freedom groups. In recent times, CPJ has documented how journalists in the DRC have been harassed, arrested, and convicted as a result of their reporting.

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