- The editor of Congo Kinshasa's privately-owned weekly, 'Le Moniteur', Rigobert Kakwala Kash, was sentenced to 11 months in prison after a court found him guilty of libelling the provincial governor of the western province of Bas-Congo. While Mr Kash languishes in prison, his paper also goes to bed as a result of the six months suspension by the media regulator, the Congolese High Authority for the Media.
Kakwala was arrested on Thursday morning at his Kinshasha home by the police's special services agents before being taken to the headquarters of the general directorate for intelligence and special services.
Upon his transfer to the Kinshasa penitentiary, Mr Kash was informed that he had been sentenced to 11 months in prison for "libelling, insulting and spreading false rumours" about Bas-Congo Governor Jacques Mbadu Situ.
During an initial hearing of the case before the Kinshasha/Kasa-Vubu court on 27 December, the convicted editor's lawyer filed several procedural objections and filed an appeal at a higher court.
Describing the 6 January verdict as a violation of Congolese law, Mr Kash's lawyer has appealed against the sentence, asking for the inconditional release of his client.
The Congolese editor was dragged to court after Jacques Mbadu Situ had refuted to the 21 November, 4 and 27 December editions of 'Le Monitor', accusing him of disbursing 45 million Congolese francs (euro 80,000) to pay government employees in his province in defiance of instructions by the Interior Ministry.
The Paris-based media watchdog, Reporters sans Frontièrs (RSF), described the verdict as a deterrrent to press freedom by Congolese authorities.
"A journalist can be punished twice for the same offence in Democratic Republic of Congo if the plaintiff is sufficiently powerful and bent on revenge," RSF said in a statement released today. "This is not how we see press freedom. The case shows how unfair Congolese law is, and how badly it needs to be amended. Kakwala must be released while the country waits for the new government to tackle this vital reform," the group added.
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