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Democratic Republic of Congo21 November 2008

Five Raga TV journalists released after being held for 24 hours

Reporters Without Borders noted the release yesterday of five journalists on privately-owned Raga TV, after they were arrested and held for 24 hours at an undisclosed location.

“We were all released this evening. We were in trouble over the broadcast of an interview with an opposition figure who made comments seen as offensive to the head of state”, director of programmes Mbuyi Bwebwe told Agence France-Presse. “On the other hand we have no news of the journalist who did the interview, who might well be in hiding”, he added.

Mbuyi Bwebwe and studio managers Faustin Bwanakawa and Jules Pata were arrested at around 8pm on 19 November when around a dozen armed men in plain clothes burst into the station. The following morning, news editor Rosette Mamba and reporter Robert Muila were arrested in their turn by two men in plain-clothes who introduced themselves as agents of the National Intelligence Agency (ANR).

20.11 - At least five journalists arrested and held after TV broadcasts interview with an opposition deputy

Reporters Without Borders called on President Joseph Kabila to urgently explain the arrests and detention at an unknown location of five staff on privately-owned Raga TV in Kinshasa on 19 and 20 November after it aired an interview with an opposition deputy.

“We cannot understand why five staff on Raga TV should be held responsible for remarks made on reports which they put out,” the worldwide press freedom organisation said. “If that is the case here, there is no reason not to release them immediately.”

Around a dozen armed, plain-clothes men burst into the station and arrested director of programmes, Mbuyi Bwebwe, and studio managers Faustin Bwanakawa and Jules Pata, at around 8pm in the evening of 19 November. They seized the tape for the evening news bulletin and blacked out the transmitter.

Shortly after the resumption of broadcasts the following day, the television’s news editor Rosette Mamba and reporter Robert Muila were arrested in their turn by two men in plain-clothes who introduced themselves as National Intelligence Agency (ANR) agents. The two journalists were taken to a still unknown location. Local sources said the ANR was still hunting other employees of the TV channel.

According to Reporters Without Borders’ partner organisation in the country, Journalist in Danger (JED), the five arrests followed Raga TV’s broadcast on the 7pm news of an interview with Roger Lumbala, an opposition deputy and president of the Rally for Congolese Democrats and Nationalists (RCDN).

Mr Lumbala said in the interview that replacement of Gen. Kayembe by Gen. Etumba as head of chief of staff of the armed forces chief of the Democratic Republic of Congo reflected “the state of panic around the head of state”. “You don’t change the head of the chief of staff in wartime. Did Kayembe have the resources he needed?” he wondered. Lumbala also criticised the establishment of an office for the head of state within the parliament building.

Reporters Without Borders further commented: “It is staggering the way the ANR has put more and more people into secret detention in the last few months. The current political and security situation is indeed difficult, but the Congolese government would demonstrate exemplary high-mindedness if, despite the situation, it finally allowed free expression for critical opinions in the media”.

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