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Democratic Republic of Congo11 April 2008

Interior minister asked to intervene in case of newspaper editor and assistant held incommunicado

Reporters Without Borders and Journalist in Danger (JED), its partner organisation in Democratic Republic of Congo, wrote today to Congolese interior minister Denis Kalume Numbi asking him to intervene in the case of newspaper editor Nsimba Embete Ponte and his assistant, Davin Ntondo Nzovuangu, who are being held incommunicado.

The editor of L’Interprète, a small-circulation fortnightly, Ponte was arrested at the “Pascal” bus stop in Masina, a municipality to the east of Kinshasa, at 7:30 a.m. on 7 March, the letter said. After several days without news of him, his family and lawyers finally learned that he was being held in a building used by the National Intelligence Agency (ANR) on the bank of the Congo river, near the prime minister’s office.

Their repeated attempts to visit him and to find out why he is being held have been unsuccessful, Ponte has not been able to see a lawyer or a doctor, in violation of articles 18 and 19 of the constitution, which guarantee the rights of detainees in police custody.

Nzovuangu, who works closely with Ponte, was arrested on 29 March. It is not known where he has been held since then.

The United Nations Mission in Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUC) also tried in vain to obtain information about Ponte and Nzovuangu.

However, “during a meeting with members of the National Union of Congo Press (UNPC), communications and media minister Emile Bongeli said Ponte was being held for criticising the president and he undertook to obtain his release so that he could be sanctioned by his fellow journalists,” the letter said.

“In view of this lack of transparency, (...) this disturbing situation must be resolved quickly according to the rule of law, which the interior ministry is there to protect,” the letter continued “Our two organisations urge you to obtain precise information from your department about the situation of Ponte and Nzovuangu and to ensure that their rights are respected.

“It seems essential that they should be taken before a judge at once if properly documented legal proceedings are to be initiated against them. Otherwise they should be released,” the letter concluded.

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