Publisher of the satirical bi-weekly Pili-Pili, Jean-Denis Lompoto, was released on bail on 27 March in Kinshasa. He put up the money himself for his bail, which was set at the equivalent of 650 euros. A few days earlier the minister said he had no objection to Lompoto being released on bail.
Lompoto has been charged with "defamation" of the Minister of Mines, Eugène Diomi Ndongala.
Satirical newspaper publisher imprisoned for defamation, two colleagues in hiding
Publisher of a satirical newspaper Jean-Denis Lompoto has been arrested and imprisoned without being taken before a court, for "defamation" of a minister. Two colleagues facing the same charge are in hiding.
Reporters Without Borders called for the immediate release of Lompoto, publisher of the bi-weekly Pili-Pili, who was arrested on 19 March and taken to the central prison in Kinshasa.
The international press freedom organisation also urged the judges dealing with the case to respect the accused journalists’ rights.
Lompoto is charged with "defamation and damaging imputations" against the Minister of Mines, Eugène Diomi Ndongala, following publication of an article headlined, "Predatory behaviour Christian-style. The Minister of Mines undermined by Diomi Ndongala". The article accused the minister of embezzlement of public funds.
The managing director of Pili-Pili, Prosper Dawé, and the author of the article, Amgwalima, both also facing the same charges and summons went into hiding.
"Mr Lompoto has been arrested and imprisoned without going before a court. The magistrate Ngoie Mutombol read him the summons and asked if he knew the minister of mines. The hearing went no further than that and the journalist had no chance to speak. It is unacceptable and we call on the legal system to respect his rights," said Reporters Without Borders.
"Moreover the three journalists are being treated like criminals, when it is a case of defamation. Prison terms are excessive in such cases. Unfortunately, the complaint only has to come from a member of the government for the targeted journalists to be immediately imprisoned. The law should show that it is independent by releasing Mr Lompoto and by not imposing a prison sentence against the three journalists," the organisation added.
No trial date has been announced.