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Democratic Republic of Congo14 September 2004

Newspaper editor detained over report that irked a vice-president

Reporters Without Borders today condemned the detention of editor Freddy Monsa Iyaka Duku over a report in his daily newspaper, Le Potentiel, that allegedly made "harmful allegations" against one of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s four vice-presidents, Arthur Z’Ahidi Ngoma. Duku was detained on 13 September and was released on bail the next day at the request of the Kinshasa state prosecutor.

"It is unacceptable that the Congolese courts put another journalist in prison for such absurd reasons," the organisation said. "We call for all charges to be dropped against Freddy Monsa Iyaka Duku, whose journalists were just doing their job whether a senior government official liked it or not."

The investigating judge who interrogated Duku yesterday said Vice-President Ngoma felt he had been "exposed to public contempt" by a report in the newspaper on 23 August headlined: "Real estate scandal: Texaf accuses... Z’Ahidi Ngoma wants to help himself."

The report described a dispute between Ngoma and a textile factory owned by Belgium-based holding company Texaf that almost led to a shootout out on 19 August between Ngoma’s bodyguards and a group of soldiers. The article quoted the positions of all the parties involved, including the views of Ngoma’s cabinet.

Ngoma is the former vice-president of the Congolese Rally for Democracy (RCD-Goma), a Rwandan-backed rebel movement. He has been one of the four vice-presidents in the transitional government since May 2003.

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