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CPJ: DRC journalist Baby Ndombe Mwilungu detained for 3 hours over coverage of governor

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On June 21, 2022, soldiers with the Democratic Republic of the Congo military arrested Baby Ndombe Mwilungu, general manager of the privately owned Radio Maendeleo broadcaster, at his home in the town of Kasongo, in the country’s eastern Maniema province, according to Ndombe and his lawyer, Richard Lupita, who spoke to CPJ over the phone.

The soldiers carried an arrest warrant signed by the Kasongo military prosecutor, handcuffed Ndombe, and took him to the military prosecutor’s office, the journalist and his lawyer said.

The arrest was conducted in response to a complaint filed by Richard Aruna over Ndombe’s coverage of Afani Idrissa Mangala, Aruna’s uncle, who is serving as governor of Maniema while new elections are organized in the province, according to Ndombe and Lupita. Aruna’s complaint accused Ndombe of public insult, insulting provincial authority, and tending to create a rebellion in Kasongo, they said.

Aruna alleged that the journalist called for listeners of his radio program “Siyasa Inchini” to demonstrate against the May 31 decision by national authorities to invalidate a recent gubernatorial election in Maniema, Lupita said.

Ndombe told CPJ that he simply described authorities’ decision in that broadcast and referred to Mangala as the interim governor, but denied calling for people to protest.

At the military prosecutor’s office, Lupita requested that Aruna show proof that he had permission to bring a legal case against the journalist in the name of the governor, and when Aruna failed to do so, the prosecutor released Ndombe unconditionally and closed the case, Lupita said.

Ndombe told CPJ he had been in custody for about three hours.

Reached by phone, Aruna acknowledged that he had brought a case against Ndombe, but declined to comment further. CPJ called Mangala but he did not answer.

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