The Democratic Republic of the Congo’s (DRC) High Court in Kinshasa-Gombe turned down a request to release journalist Stanis Bujakera from detention on Tuesday. According to Jeune Afrique Magazine and AFP, Bujakera’s legal team repeatedly sought his release after he was detained in September. They also petitioned the court to grant them more time to prepare for the case.
Stanis’ lawyer Charles Mushizi, told AFP:
The court rejected [on October 17] the request for release of detention and provisional release of the journalist, arguing that his escape is to be feared. Defense lawyers will consult and decide whether to appeal this decision.
Bujakera was apprehended on September 8th at Kinshasa’s N’djili Airport as he boarded a flight to Lubumbashi, DRC. Prior to being sent into temporary detention on September 11, he had been jailed for three days. He was accused of “forgery,” “falsification of state seals,” “propagation of false information,” as well as “transmission of false messages against the law.” These accusations stemmed from an anonymous article in Jeune Afrique Magazine that cited a document linking Congolese military intelligence to the killing of opposition leader Chérubin Okende.
The DRC government declared on October 3 that it would not get involved in the matter. According to the state, the legal system should be in charge of making a decision. Patrick Muyaya, the DRC’s Minister of Communications said of the arrest, “[I]t is not good news that a journalist is going to prison.” However, Muyaya stressed that reporters exercising their right to freedom of the press should check facts before posting to prevent misinformation. The president of the DRC, Félix Tshisekedi also expressed sympathy for the journalist and reaffirmed his support for the right to a free press in the nation.
Numerous local and international human rights organizations have demanded the release of the Jeune Afrique Magazine correspondent. The Committee to Protect Journalists urged the government to grant Bujakera temporary release, allowing reunification with his family. Angela Quintal, CPJ’s Africa program coordinator, stated, “Journalist Stanis Bujakera should never have been arrested or charged, but the least DRC authorities can do is not oppose his request for provisional release and drop all legal proceedings against him.” Human Rights Watch also expressed grave concern over Bujakera’s case, labeling the September decision a violation of press freedom.