Reporters Without Borders today hailed the release yesterday of Olivier Komfie Mabwava, Digital Congo FM’s correspondent in Bandundu province (West), after 48 hours in detention.
Mabwava was summoned by a local judge on 12 July and immediately arrested on the orders of the prosecutor’s office for causing “offence” to Bandundu governor Gérard Gifuza in a 6 July interview with a trade unionist who accused the governor holding up the salaries of health personnel.
The Congolese press freedom organisation Journalist in Danger (JED) said Mabwava was freed “after paying a compromise fine of 10,000 Congolese francs (23 dollars), which resulted in the withdrawal of the charges against him.”
13.07.06 - Radio reporter imprisoned in Bandundu province at governor’s behest
Reporters Without Borders today condemned another case of a provincial official abusing his authority to have a journalist arrested, this time in the western province of Bandundu where Olivier Komfie Mabwava, the local correspondent of Digital Congo FM, a privately-owned Kinshasa radio station that supports President Joseph Kabila, was arrested at the governor’s behest.
“Mabwava is the third radio journalist in a month to fall victim to the anger of local officials,” the press freedom organisation said. “As the elections get nearer, the authorities seem to be getting more touchy about journalists who dare to use their right to freedom of expression and information. Mabwava is being held illegally. He must be freed at once, without any charges being brought against him.”
Mabwava was summoned by Bandundu judge Edo Matungulu on the afternoon of 12 July to listen to a recording of the station’s news programme containing comments that had “deeply offended” governor Gérard Guy Fuza Ginday. Journaliste in Danger (JED), the local partner organisation of Reporters Without Borders, said he was promptly arrested on a warrant issued by state prosecutor Kapuba Tshokoyokoyo.
Mabwava told JED he conducted an interview for the 6 July news programme in which the president of the Bandundu union of doctors “accused the provincial governor of blocking the salaries of health personnel and invited his colleagues to stage a sit-in outside the governor’s office.”
Pierre-Sosthène Kambidi of Concorde FM was arrested in the central province of Kasai Occidental on 8 June on the orders of Pierre Kidogo, the head of a police rapid intervention unit, and was released on bail six days later. Gaston Ngalamulume of Radio Etoile was detained and beaten in the same province on 22 June on the orders of another local police chief, Sgt. Médard Kabutakapa, and was freed without being charged two days later.