Welcoming Pierre-Sosthène Kambidi’s release on bail late yesterday in Tshikapa, in the central province of Kasaï Occidental, five days after his arrest on the orders of a local police chief, Reporters Without Borders today called on the authorities to drop all the charges against him.
“This is just the first stage in getting justice for Kambidi, who has been the victim of legal shenanigans,” the press freedom organisation said. “The courts must now distance themselves from the political manoeuvring by recognising that his case has been handled in an improper manner.”
Freed yesterday evening after paying bail of 20,000 Congolese francs (37 euros), Kambidi must remain at the disposal of the Tshikapa judicial authorities and cannot live the city.
12.06.2006 - Radio presenter gets three months in prison for defaming provincial police chief
Reporters Without Borders today reiterated its call for the release of journalist Pierre-Sosthène Kambidi of privately-owned radio station Concorde FM after he was summarily and unfairly tried by a court in Tshikapa in the central province of Kasaï Occidental on 10 June and sentenced to three months in prison for defaming a local police chief.
“The reports we have received about Kambidi’s arrest and trial are astounding,” the press freedom organisation said. “This case shows how urgent a need there is to build a judicial system capable of resisting pressure from those in positions of power. At the same time, we reiterate our call for a rapid overhaul of the defamation law. Kambidi must be freed and an administrative investigation must be conducted into the way he was put in prison.”
Kambidi was arrested on 8 June on the orders of Pierre Kidogo, the commander of a police rapid intervention brigade based in Tshikapa, and has been held in the city’s main prison ever since. Judge Aimé Mupele Zangisi presided over the court that gave him the three-month sentence and a fine of 150,000 Congolese francs (265 euros) on 10 June.
According to Journalist in Danger (JED), the Reporters Without Borders partner organisation in Democratic Republic of Congo, the trial was very unfair. JED quoted Kambidi’s lawyer as saying the prosecution witnesses contradicted themselves and said the defamatory comments were make in a Tshiluba-language news programme, whereas the programme Kambidi presents is in French. Tshiluba is one of Democratic Republic of Congo’s four national languages.
09.06.2006 - Radio reporter imprisoned on orders of provincial police chief
Reporters Without Borders today called for the immediate release of Pierre-Sosthène Kambidi of privately-owned radio Concorde FM after Pierre Kidogo, the commander of a police rapid intervention brigade, abused his authority and had him detained yesterday in Tshikapa, in the central province of Kasaï Occidental.
“It entirely unacceptable for a senior police official to behave like a Wild West sheriff in a country where the rule of law is supposed to prevail, and the judicial authorities should not have allowed themselves to be his accomplices,” the press freedom organisation said. “He must learn to understand that his job does not give him unlimited powers over his fellow citizens.”
Reporters Without Borders added: “We appeal to the governor of Kasaï Occidental, Gilbert Tshiongo Tshibinkubula, to personally intervene in this case and order the journalist’s release.”
The local correspondent of the Congolese press freedom organisation Journalist in Danger (JED), Kambidi was arrested at his radio station by a group of policemen led by Kidogo, who personally took him to the Tshikapa prosecutor’s office and insisted that he be jailed for “insulting” him.
In a news bulletin the previous day, Kambidi reported that a lawyer had recently been beaten up and arrested by the Tshikapa rapid intervention brigade. Kambidi’s lawyer said the Concorde FM report did not name Kidogo. The lawyer also said the prosecutor’s office initial response was that it needed more information before it could order Kambidi’s detention, and that it was a justice of the peace who finally ordered him to placed in pre-trial custody.