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DRC journalist detained after guests on show criticise President Kabila

Intolerant: The journalist on December 12 presented the programme “Franc parler”’ during which guests criticised a speech to the nation by President Joseph Kabila (above) and the construction of the Uvira stadium, which is being dealt with by the territory’s deputy administrator in charge of finance, Victor Chomachoma, who is suspected of corruption.

Robert Shemahamba, director of Radio-Télévision Communautaire Mitumba (RTCM) and correspondent for the Syfia Grands Lacs news agency, has been arbitrarily detained since Dececmber 17 in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), according to Paris-based press freedom group Reporters sans Frontières (RSF).

The journalist is being held in a cell at the National Intelligence Agency (ANR) in Uvira, Sud-Kivu province in the east of the country. To date, all efforts on the part of the worldwide press freedom organisation to get him released have been unsuccessful.

RSF has since December 20 discussed the case several times with the administrator of the Uvira territory, Wabunga Singa, who told it that the journalist would be quickly freed – “in the next few hours”, he said – but this came to nothing. As for the provincial head of the ANR for Sud-Kivu, he is currently in Kinshasa and says he cannot intervene before returning to the east of the country.

"Since the authorities closest to this case are showing bad faith and inertia, promising to release the journalist but then doing nothing about it, we call on the minister of Communications and the Media, Lambert Mendé Omalanga, as well as the vice-Premier minister and minister of the Interior and Security, Adolphe Lumanu Mulenda Bwana N’Sefu, to take responsibility for the case. Getting this journalist released is urgent, first to put right an injustice done to him for almost a week, but also because his health is deteriorating," RSF said.

Shemahamba is in a weakened state and is suffering from diarrhoea. His jailers refuse to allow him any visits or access to medical treatment, according to RSF.

The journalist on December 12 presented the programme “Franc parler”’ during which guests criticised a speech to the nation by President Joseph Kabila and the construction of the Uvira stadium, which is being dealt with by the territory’s deputy administrator in charge of finance, Victor Chomachoma, who is suspected of corruption.

The following day, Shemahamba was summoned by the high court in Uvira and questioned by the state prosecutor. He was accused by Victor Chomachoma of “insult and contempt of his person and that of the head of state”. He was summoned to the ANR on December 17 and placed in detention there.

Journalist Dominique Kalonzo, correspondent in Uvira for privately-owned Radio Maendeleo based in Bukavu, is now being sought by the ANR for taking part in the same programme. He has been living in hiding since 17 December. His house has been searched and is now ringed by intelligence agents who have been threatening to arrest his wife if the journalist does not give himself up.

Demonstrations were held last weekend in Uvira calling for the release of Shemahamba but the protestors were brutally dispersed by police. The Sud-Kivu section of the Congolese National Press Union (UNPC) has released a statement deploring the plight of Shemahamba and Kalonzo and calling for the release of the former.

Three community radios in Uvira on December 20 started broadcasting special programmes to demonstrate their solidarity with Shemahamba, suspending normal broadcast to play songs with themes related to the journalist’s detention. Uvira journalists are planning a sit-in tomorrow outside the office of the administrator of the territory.

Date posted: December 27, 2010 Last modified: May 23, 2018 Total views: 115