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CPJ: DRC defense minister files, withdraws false news complaint against reporter Stanis Bujekera

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On March 9, 2023, Congolese Minister of Defense Gilbert Kabanda filed a criminal complaint accusing journalist Stanis Bujekera Tshamala of publishing false rumors, according to news reports and a copy of that complaint, which CPJ reviewed.

The complaint stemmed from a March 5 tweet by Bujekera, a correspondent for the France-based Jeune Afrique news website, the Reuters news agency, and Congolese online outlet Actualité.cd. Bujekera has about 480,000 followers on his Twitter account, where he frequently shares his journalism.

Kabanda’s complaint, signed by his legal adviser Parfait Mbutamuntu, accused Bujekera of “alarming the Congolese and foreign population by falsely publishing the tweet.”

Bujekera told CPJ via messaging app that his tweet had simply quoted from the official minutes of a March 3 cabinet meeting in which Kabanda expressed surprise about the military advance by M23 rebels in the eastern part of the country. In his complaint, Kabanda wrote that he did not “recognize being the author” of those statements.

Israel Mutala, president of the Online News Media of the DRC, a group that represents online journalists, told CPJ in a phone interview that Kabanda’s remarks were not altered or distorted in Bujekera’s tweet.

On March 11, Minister of Communication Patrick Muyaya tweeted that he had intervened and Kabanda had dropped the complaint, adding that “the Congolese government remained deeply committed to respecting the right to press freedom.”

Bujekera told CPJ that although the complaint had circulated on social media he was never officially notified or summoned by the military prosecutor. CPJ called Kabanda for comment but he did not answer.

Publishing false rumors is punishable up to five years in prison, according to the Congolese penal code, which CPJ reviewed.

Bujakera has previously received death threats and insults via social media over his reporting, as CPJ has documented.

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