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Gabon8 February 2008

Freelance journalist arrested for trying to investigate corruption

Reporters Without Borders calls on the Gabonese authorities to explain why Repé Kabamba, a Congolese freelance journalist, was arrested yesterday by members of a government security unit known as B2 when he went to interview the head of the Office of Ports and Harbours (OPRAG) in Libreville about allegations of embezzlement.

“An independent journalist whose revelations are sometimes embarrassing, Kabamba is the victim of an unacceptable attempt to intimidate him and make him abandon his investigation,” the press freedom organisation said. “We urge the Gabonese judicial authorities not to obstruct press freedom and to respect the confidentiality of journalists’ sources.”

Kabamba had requested and obtained an appointment with OPRAG director Jean-Pierre Oyiba after receiving documents a few days ago implicating Oyiba in alleged financial irregularities. He hoped to do a story about OPRAG and wanted Oyiba’s comments on the information he had been given.

But when he arrived at OPRAG’s offices, he was arrested by members of B2, which happens to be run by Oyiba’s brother. They took him to B2 headquarters to “verify his identity.” But once there, they tried without success to get him to reveal the location of the documents. They then searched his home without a warrant, confiscating his residence permit, press card, diplomas and mobile phones, but failed to find the documents. Finally, then took him back to B2, photographed him and released him at about 7 pm.

Kabamba told Reporters Without Borders he regarded the arrest, interrogation and search as an “intimidation attempt.”

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