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DRC radio journalist detained over defamation claim

By Committee to Protect Journalists
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New York, December 21, 2017--Authorities in the Democratic Republic of Congo should immediately release broadcast journalist Benjamin Mutiya, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. The national security service (ANR) arrested Mutiya, a reporter at the community station Radio Télévision Communautaire de Walikale (RTCWA), in Walikale, on December 14, according to local press freedom groups.

Mutiya is accused of defaming Marie-Claire Bangwene, the administrator of Walikale, a territory in North Kivu province, according to the local press freedom group L’Observatoire de la Liberté de la Presse en Afrique. He has not been charged, Fortunat Maronga, national coordinator of the local rights group Carrefour pour la Justice, le Développement et les Droits Humains, told CPJ.

The arrest came the day after Mutiya broadcast a discussion that was critical of the management of Walikale territory, particularly road repairs, Maronga and a journalist who is familiar with the case, but who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal, told CPJ. Mutiya has previously reported on protests over the quality of the road in the area, Maronga told CPJ.

“Authorities must immediately release Benjamin Mutiya without charge and allow him to return to work,” said CPJ Africa Program Coordinator Angela Quintal in Durban, South Africa. “Congolese authorities should stop arresting and trying to intimidate journalists for doing their job, especially when they are reporting on matters of public interest.”

Mutiya is being detained in the Walikale central prison and his case was transferred to the prosecutor’s office, the journalist who asked not to be identified told CPJ.

CPJ’s calls to the head of the national security service, the journalist’s lawyer, and his radio station went unanswered.

In recent months, CPJ has documented how journalists in the Democratic Republic of Congo have been harassed, arrested, and detained for their reporting.