See also:
» 24.08.2009 - JED calls for investigation of journalist's death
» 21.07.2009 - RSF denounces journalists’ harassment in Congo
» 11.05.2009 - RSF condemns suspension of local station in DRC
» 15.04.2009 - Armed men threaten to kill journalist in DRC
» 25.11.2008 - CPJ condemns murder of journalist in DRC
» 31.10.2007 - DRC bans 38 broadcasters
» 18.07.2007 - Congolese editor's killers confessed
» 14.06.2007 - Congo journalist gunned down

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Congo Kinshasa

Nine Congolese journalists given prison sentences

afrol News, 7 January - A Kinshasa court has sentenced nine journalists union members from the state broadcaster, Congolese National Radio-television (RTNC, Radiotélévision Nationale Congolaise) to 12 months in prison with no parole. The journalists were found guilty of "defamation".

The Kinshasa-based media watchdog Journaliste en danger (JED) today reports that on 5 January, "nine state broadcaster journalists and employees were given heavy prison sentences for 'defamation'."

The Kinshasa court had also ordered the journalists and other employees to pay US$ 2,500 each in damages and interest for "defamation" and "slanderous denunciations" against former Communications and Press Minister Kikaya bin Karubi.

In late February 2003, 'RTNC' journalists and other employees gathered at one of the broadcaster's regular general meetings had called for the resignation of Kikaya, who was communications and press minister at the time.

They also demanded the reinstatement of the suspended director of 'RTNC', Luboya Mvidie. Shortly after these events, cameraman John Ngomba was suspended for filming and airing images of angry 'RTNC' employees at the same meeting.

Following the meeting, nine RTNC trade union representatives wrote to Congolese President Joseph Kabila denouncing the embezzlement by Mr Kikaya's Ministry of "two transmitters from an equipment shipment purchased by the [state and] the embezzlement of funds that the 'RTNC' had collected in rent."

They also demanded the minister's resignation. The union representatives copied their letter to all senior authorities in Congo Kinshasa (DRC).

On 20 March, the former Minister's lawyer, Gustave Booloko, filed a complaint with the Kinshasa High Court Prosecutor's Office on behalf of his client, accusing the nine 'RTNC' journalists and employees of "defamation". The judicial authorities subsequently organised a manhunt for the targeted 'RTNC' employees.

The 'RTNC' employees were the subject of threats and intimidation. Their trial was proceeding on schedule until judges called a strike in October, at which point hearings were suspended. The judges sought better working conditions and salary increases that would guarantee their independence.

In a statement published in Congolese newspapers today, the judges' union announced its decision to end the strike on 5 January, in order "to allow the government and Parliament to negotiate with the bench in a calm fashion."

JED in a statement today said it took note of that the Kinshasa court had delivered its verdict in the case involving former Minister Kikaya and the nine 'RTNC' employees on 5 January. The defendants only were informed of the court's decision via newspaper reports.

Two of the sentenced 'RTNC' employees had told JED they had yet to receive official notification of the court decision. "Much like yourselves, we learned of our sentence of 12 months in prison with no parole and a US$ 2,500 fine in this morning's papers," Richard Kalala Tshitenge, one of the convicted employees, told JED.

The 'RTNC' journalists and employees include Mvidie, Tshitenge, Shango Onokoko, Soki Muanda, Gusonega, Batudianga, Nkanza, Mantuala and Basilua. "They were not in court when the verdict was delivered and as of yet have not been detained," JED reports from Kinshasa.

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