Jean Pierre Tshibitshabu, a reporter for the independent broadcaster Radio Television KADEKAS, is due to appear in a Lubumbashi court, in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), on Tuesday on charges of “incitement and provocation”.
The charges against Tshibiitshabu relate to July protests he was covering calling for elections to be held in the DRC, according to the journalist’s lawyer, David Ilunga Sheria, and the Congolese press freedom advocacy organisation Journalistes en Danger.
Security forces arrested Tshibitshabu in Lubumbashi on July 31 as he tried to document events. On the day of his arrest, police confiscated his phone and seized about 30,000 Congolese francs (US$19) as well as US$20 in cash.
However, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has called for the DRC authorities to drop all charges against Tshibitshabu and simultaneously investigate claims that he was assaulted in custody after he was arrested.
“Congolese authorities should immediately release Jean PierreTshibitshabu, drop all charges against the journalist, and take action against those who attacked him in prison,” said CPJ Africa Programme Coordinator Angela Quintal.
“Journalists must be permitted to operate freely without fear of harassment or detention in the Democratic Republic of Congo, especially during times of tension,” she added.
Llunga explained that when he was leaving Kasapa Central Prison after visiting the journalist on August 18, he witnessed prison inmates repeatedly slap and hit Tshibitshabu, and said that the prison guards did not intervene.
The lawyer said that the journalist sustained multiple cuts and bruises in the attack, adding that the prison failed to provide adequate medical treatment and that his client was still suffering from multiple injuries.
CPJ said repeated phone calls to Justin Kutule, the director of Kasapa prison, went unanswered. When CPJ contacted the Lubumbashi police, a person who identified himself only as Major Paul refused to comment.
Chaertk Ntamdwe, the director of Radio Television KADEKAS, told CPJ the station is contacting international organisations to highlight Tshibitshabu’s case and secure his release.
The DRC has experienced unrest since December last year, when President Joseph Kabila failed to hold scheduled elections at the end of his term.
CPJ is aware of at least 18 other journalists detained or harassed by DRC security forces on the same day Tshibitshabu was arrested.
The other arrested journalists were released without charge. But four political activists who were also arrested face charges.
Meanwhile, Tshibitshabu plans to file a complaint against the security forces.