Congolese journalists call for the release of colleague Stanis Bujakera

Journalists in the Democratic Republic of Congo have handed a memorandum to the Ministry of Justice demanding the release of their colleague, Stanis Bujakera.

The Jeune Afrique and Reuters correspondent was arrested on 8 September, on suspicion of spreading false information about the killing of a prominent opposition politician in Kinshasa in July.

Bujakera was not named as the author of the article which was published on the Jeune Afrique website.

It discusses a report by the National Intelligence Agency regarding the circumstances surrounding the death of former minister Chérubin Okende.

The Congolese government has disputed the authenticity of the document, describing it as a fabricated hoax aimed at “discrediting the government’s actions”.

Edmund Izuba, a spokesperson for the journalist’s body, Rajec, which organised the demonstration, said Bujakera had done nothing wrong and his imprisonment was “arbitrary”.

The organisation said the government was trying to gag the press ahead of elections due to be held in December.

“Journalists are restricted, arrests are on the increase in large numbers, pressure is brought to bear, arrests are made without any knowledge of the facts or any valid reason, because there are people who are causing a stir,” said journalist Yves Buya.

Carrying banners saying “Journalism is not a crime” and “A free press is a symbol of democracy”, the demonstrators handed the memorandum to the minister’s advisor.

“This memorandum, broadly speaking, demands the immediate and unconditional release of our colleague Bujakera, and the dropping of charges against journalists,” said Ibuza as he handed over the document.

After being held in police custody for several days, Bujakera was transferred to a prison in the capital.

Local and international rights groups have expressed concern about his detention, calling it an attack on press freedom.

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