Senegal: CPJ urges Congolese authorities to release journalist

Dakar, Senegal (PANA)
- Congolese authorities should immediately release Ghys Fortuné Dombé Bemba, the editor of the privately-owned newspaper, Talassa, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has said.

In a statement made available to PANA in Dakar, Senegal, on Saturday, CPJ said the Republic of Congo's security services arrested Bemba in Brazzaville on 11 January.

According to the media freedom watchdog, Congolese Public Prosecutor, André Oko Ngakala, later disclosed in a statement on 12 January that Bemba was under investigation for "complicity in undermining state security" in connection with Frédéric Bintsamou, also known as Pastor Ntumi, a former rebel leader who the government accuses of terrorism.

"We call on Congolese authorities to immediately release Ghys Fortuné Dombé Bemba," remarked Angela Quintal, CPJ's Africa programme coordinator.

"Journalists should be free to publish critical and opposing views without fear of arrest."

The statement pointed out that Congolese officials visited Bemba at his office two days before his arrest in connection with several articles published in Talassa.

CPJ said after Bemba's arrest, various news outlets reported that the journalist could have been detained because his paper had published a statement by Pastor Ntumi, been critical of the military, and had allegedly angered the head of the state-run press regulator.

The journalist is being held at a local police station but CPJ says it cannot determine if he has been charged.

CPJ went further to disclose that Bemba's arrest could have been linked to reports calling for Congolose authorities to force elderly military officials into retirement, and alleging wrongdoing by members of the military.

The statement also noted that Bemba had allegedly angered Philippe Mvouo, head of the press regulator, High Council for Freedom of Communication, with an article in the latest edition of Talassa about an aborted meeting between Congo's President Denis Sassou Nguesso and U.S. President-elect Donald Trump.

However, Mvouo was said to have told the media that Bemba's arrest was not connected to his journalism.

CPJ recalled that Talassa has been previously targeted by the authorities and in November 2007, the High Council for Freedom of Communication suspended Talassa for two months in relation to an editorial critical of Congo's president.

The statement also said the paper was again suspended for four months in 2013, along with three other newspapers.
-0- PANA MLJ/MA 14January2017

14 january 2017 09:29:12

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