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D.R. Congo9 September 2002

Two journalists sentenced to a prison term

Reporters without Borders expressed strong disapproval of the sentence rendered against the two managers of the Alerte Plus newspaper: prison without any possibility of parole. "In terms of press freedom, the Democratic Republic of the Congo remains one of the most repressive countries on the African continent. The Congolese courts are not in the least reluctant to mete out prison terms and impose exorbitant fines," stressed Robert Ménard, Reporters without Borders’ General Secretary, in a letter sent to the Republic’s President, Joseph Kabila (photo). "In this particular case, it is obvious that the sentences rendered will force the publication to shut down, delivering yet another blow to the already weak Congolese private press," he added.

Without expressing an opinion on the substance of this case, Reporters without (JPEG) Borders urged the Head of State to do whatever necessary to obtain the release of both journalists. The organisation reminded him that, in a document published in January 2000, the United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression had appealed to all governments to "ensure that offences related to the press not be punishable by imprisonment," deeming such penalties to be "disproportional to the damage done to the victim." President Joseph Kabila’s name is one of 42 that appear on Reporters without Borders’ list of "Predators of Press Freedom."

On 6 September 2002, Raymond Kabala, director of the Alerte Plus publication, and Delly Bonsange, the publisher of the same newspaper, were sentenced to term of twelve and six months in prison respectively. The Kinshasa-N’Dijili Peace Court found them guilty of "harmful accusations" and "falsification of a public document." The two journalists were also sentenced to pay a total of 300,000 dollars (about 306,000 euros) in damages to Mwenze Kongolo. They are being held in the Kinshasa Penitentiary and Re-education Centre (CPRK).

Raymond Kabala and Delly Bonsange had been arrested on 19 and 22 July, respectively, after they had published an article affirming that the Minister of Security and Public Order, Mwenze Kongolo, "was allegedly poisoned." On the very next day after the article appeared, Alerte Plus printed a correction, acknowledging that the information was untrue.

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