afrol News, 18 June - Joachim Diana Gikupa, publication director of the pro-government daily 'L'Avenir', was detained in Kinshasa on Thursday 14 June 2001, by the National Information Agency (Agence nationale des renseignements, ANR) services. He was lured to a "press consultation" after having published a letter indicating that a presidential aide was betraying his boss.
According to the 'L'Avenir' newspaper, "on Thursday 14 June, at around 11:00 a.m., we received a telephone call from the National Information Agency (ANR), a follow-up to their verbal invitation to our publication director (...). He [the ANR agent] explained that the invitation was made towards press consultations (Sic!)". The daily added that Diana Gikupa "had not returned to the newspaper's offices (...)" since then.
The information was received by the Congolese media watchdog Journaliste en danger (JED). On Friday 15 June, the ANR services confirmed to JED that Diana Gikupa was indeed being held at their headquarters.
The services also told JED that the detention is linked to the publication of a feature article in the Friday 8 June edition of "L'Avenir" (issue 1229), titled: "J. Kabila torpedoed by his entourage?" The article included an accompanying facsimile of a handwritten letter on Office of the President of the Republic letterhead, which was signed by Professor Théophile Bemba Fundu, President Joseph Kabila's cabinet director.
In the letter, addressed to "Mister Administrator," the author asks the addressee to "take all possible measures to ensure that this meeting [a press conference organised by former president Mobutu's last cabinet director, who is also president of a wing of the MPR, the former state party] does not take place, as it risks causing a further drop in the head of state's political standing." The letter was dated 5 June.
The ANR services told JED that the letter was forged. The handwriting and signature do not match President Kabila's cabinet director's style. The head of state's cabinet director reportedly protested against "this forgery" in a letter to the minister of justice.
In a summons dated 15 June, the L'Avenir Group, represented by its publisher Pius Mwabilu Mukala, summoned a Mr. Kitengye, ANR press director, and the ANR itself, to appear before the Kinshasa/Gombe High Court on 28 June at 9:00 a.m., for "arbitrary arrest and illegal detention" of "L'Avenir"'s publication director.
'L'Avenir' is a newspaper which has openly supported the government since the rule of former president Laurent-Désiré Kabila. In its Wednesday 13 June and Thursday 14 June editions, the daily made mention of "anonymous telephone calls, threats and insults from persons at bay who believed that everyone would lose their heads as part of the Kabila effect, to allow them once again to mortgage the country's future."
According to the French media watchdog Reporters sans frontières (RSF), "not a great deal seems to have changed in Kinshasa since the death of Laurent-Désiré Kabila. His son does nothing to restrict the activities of his father's former cronies, or of the nine security services, which are still the biggest threat to the press." Since 1997 more than 130 journalists have been arrested by security officials in Congo, and many have been tortured.
RSF has sent a letter of protest against Diana Gikupula's detention to Information Minister Kikaya bin Karubi. The group also complains about the arrest of Freddy Loseke, director of the publication 'La Libre Afrique,' who was detained on 30 May 2001 for defamation.
Sources: Based on JED, RSF and afrol archives