Congo: Media watchdogs appeal to Congo to free detained Editor

Brazzaville, Congo (PANA) - Two media watchdogs, Committee to Protect Journalists and Reporters Sans Frontières, have appealed to Congolese President Denis Sassou Nguesso to immediately free Ghys Fortuné Dombé Bemba, editor of the privately-owned newspaper, Talassa.

In a letter to the Congolese president, the two media watchdogs expressed deep concern about the detention without charge of Bemba since last 11 January.

The letter was signed by Joel Simon, Executive Director, Committee to Protect Journalists, and
Christophe Deloire, Secretary General, Reporters Sans Frontières.

The letter said according to a statement released by Congolese Public Prosecutor André Oko Ngakala, the editor is accused of "complicity in undermining state security" in connection with his publication of a statement by former rebel leader Frédéric Bintsamou, also known as Pastor Ntumi.

Bemba's arrest followed the Congolese authorities' visit to Talassa's office on 9 January to prevent the newspaper's publication.

The letter said a formal request on 13 July for Bemba's release while awaiting trial was denied, and a trial date has not been set.

It said when CPJ in July 2017 contacted Séraphin Ondele, cabinet director of the Congo minister of the interior, he said he was unaware of Bemba's case.

The letter said: "This is not the first time Bemba and Talassa have been targeted by Congolese authorities. Bemba was arrested in 2015 in connection with an article critical of your administration, and Talassa was suspended in 2007 and 2013.

"Bemba's detention for more than eight months without trial is inhumane, and sends a chilling message to the media in Republic of the Congo that the government will not respect the fundamental right of journalists to gather and impart information and that they too could be jailed.

"We urge you to use your office to ensure that Ghys Fortuné Dombé Bemba is immediately freed and that all investigations against him are dropped. Freedom of the press in the Republic of the Congo depends on a climate in which journalists can work without fear of reprisal, which in turn depends on your leadership."
-0- PANA MA 19Sept2017

19 september 2017 11:19:44

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