- 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.
afrol News - It is called "financial inclusion", and it is a key government policy in Rwanda. The goal is that, by 2020, 90 percent of the population is to have and actively use bank accounts. And in only four years, financial inclusion has doubled in Rwanda.
afrol News - The UN's humanitarian agencies now warn about a devastating famine in Sudan and especially in South Sudan, where the situation is said to be "imploding". Relief officials are appealing to donors to urgently fund life-saving activities in the two countries.
afrol News - Fear is spreading all over West Africa after the health ministry in Guinea confirmed the first Ebola outbreak in this part of Africa. According to official numbers, at least 86 are infected and 59 are dead as a result of this very contagious disease.
afrol News - It is already a crime being homosexual in Ethiopia, but parliament is now making sure the anti-gay laws will be applied in practical life. No pardoning of gays will be allowed in future, but activist fear this only is a signal of further repression being prepared.
afrol News / Africa Renewal - Ethiopia's ambitious plan to build a US$ 4.2 billion dam in the Benishangul-Gumuz region, 40 km from its border with Sudan, is expected to provide 6,000 megawatts of electricity, enough for its population plus some excess it can sell to neighbouring countries.