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CPJ: Congolese journalist Sébastien Mulamba charged with weapons possession, criminal association, armed robbery after critical radio commentary

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Dakar, April 28, 2022 — Congolese authorities should drop their prosecution of journalist Sébastien Mulamba, stop harassing him, and investigate the raid on his home, the Committee to Project Journalists said Thursday.

At around 3 a.m. on April 21, police arrested Mulamba, a journalist and director of the privately owned Kisangani News, at his home in Kisangani, the capital of the northern Tshopo province, according to press reports and the journalist, who spoke to CPJ by phone. Mulamba also appears as a guest commentator on local radio programs, according to those sources.

Mulamba and Ernest Mukula, a representative of the National Union of Congolese Press in Kisangani, both told CPJ that they believe the arrest is in retaliation for Mulamba’s guest commentary on the “Orient Hebo” program, broadcast by Radio Flamboyant Orient at Kisangani University. During the program, Mulamba repeatedly criticized the governor of the Tshopo province, Abibu Sakapela, the journalist told CPJ, without giving further details.

“Congolese authorities should drop the charges against Sébastien Mulamba and thoroughly investigate the violent raid on his home,” said Angela Quintal, CPJ’s Africa program coordinator, from New York. “Journalists in the Democratic Republic of the Congo are too often subjected to violent harassment and detention.”

The unknown number of uniformed officers who arrested Mulamba on April 21 wore hoods that covered their faces, forced their way into the home, broke doors and windows, and fired shots into the air, Mulamba told CPJ. After gaining access to the home, officers tied Mulamba’s hands, took his phone, and refused to explain the reason for the arrest, the journalist told CPJ. “They [the police] found me in front of my children and tied me up without telling me why,” Mulamba said.

The officers then took Mulamba to the local police station and held him for six hours, he told CPJ. Police released him with his phone and charged him with illegal possession of weapons, criminal association, and armed robbery. The contents of Mulamba’s phone had been deleted, he said.

The police told Mulamba to be ready to return if they called, he said. A court date has not been scheduled and if convicted, Mulamba faces the death penalty, according to Articles 85 and 150 of the penal code. Mulamba denied the charges, telling CPJ that they are unfounded.

CPJ’s calls to Sakapela rang unanswered. Messages for comment sent via messaging app to Sakapela and Kazingu Voda, a Kisangani police spokesperson, were marked as “read,” but received no response.

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