DRC journalist freed after serving six month jail sentence News
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DRC journalist freed after serving six month jail sentence

Democratic Republic of Congo journalist Stanis Bujakera was freed from prison Tuesday after serving a six-month jail sentence for forgery and spreading false rumors for an article about a government intelligence agency’s involvement in the death of political opposition candidate Cherubin Okende.

Bujakera’s lawyer Yana Ndikulu announced the news in a statement to the journalist’s employer Reuters while fellow DRC journalist Patient Ligodi confirmed the news in a post on social media platform X. Bujakera, who was originally detained in pre-trial custody back in September of last year, was ultimately sentenced to six months in jail and a fine of one million Congolese Francs ($364). Prosecutors who had been seeking a 20-year sentence against the journalist appealed the sentence before dropping their petition and allowing the beleaguered journalist to go free.

Bujakera had been prosecuted under Article 211 of the DRC Penal Code, which restricts the intentional sharing of false news likely to disturb the peace. New media laws were also passed just last year that prohibited journalists from disseminating false information through social networks, prescribing a one to six-month-long prison term for violators. The arrest and imprisonment drew condemnation from numerous human rights groups, including Reporters Without Borders and Amnesty International. The latter called the legal action a “travesty” and lobbied the Tshisekedi government for Bujakera’s release.

In August of 2023, Jeune Afrique published an article that claimed the death of politician Cherubin Okende was a murder and implicated the DRC’s National Intelligence Agency. The news agency claimed they had access to a confidential report which accused military intelligence agents of involvement in the politician’s death. Okende’s death had officially been ruled a suicide by prosecutors despite unconfirmed reports that his body had been found riddled with bullets. Bujakera was arrested following the report’s publication.

JURIST Assistant Editor contributed to this report.