DRC journalist detained, accused of “compromising” president over bread truck photos

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Authorities in the Democratic Republic of Congo should investigate and bring to justice those responsible for the arrest and detention of Willy Akonda, a reporter with the privately owned ACTUALITE.CD news outlet, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

Agents from the Congolese military intelligence services (DEMIAP) on January 23 detained Akonda for nine hours, and accused him of taking photographs that “compromised” President Joseph Kabila, the journalist told CPJ. The military intelligence services also confiscated Akonda’s two cellphones and returned them to him, he said in an interview with CPJ following the phones’ return.

DRC’s capital city of Kinshasa, when a man in plainclothes who identified himself as a member of the Congolese military proceeded to arrest the journalist, according to Akonda.

The hand in the eyes of those who identified him as a DEMIAP officer took Akonda to the local police station, and then to the military intelligence office where the members of the DEMIAP reviewed the contents of his two phones, Akoda said.

“DEMIAP office identified only as” Major “threatened me with death,” said Akonda told CPJ. “They [DEMIAP agents] handcuffed both my hands and started pulling my handcuffs tightly to make it hurt me more,” he said.

After the DEMIAP officers questioned him, Akonda said he was left in a room.

“Willy Akonda should have been arrested, detained or maltreated,” said CPJ Africa Program Coordinator Angela Quintal. “It is absurd that authorities associate the act of taking photographs with an attack on the head of state.

According to a news  report  by ACTUALITE.CD , the DEMIAP head, Delphin Kahimbi, said they would “sanction” the officers responsible for Akonda’s harassment, but did not specify when or what action would be taken.

When CPJ contacted a Congolese military colonel known only as Maurice, who Akonda said facilitated his release, for comment; the colonel asked CPJ to call him back later and was then unreachable on subsequent attempts.

In recent months,  CPJ has reported a number of  incidents where journalists in the Democratic Republic of Congo have been harassed, arrested, and detained for their reporting.

  • Information is safe reporting practices for journalists in the DRC, Including how to protect a phone’s contents in case it is Seized by autoritĂ©s, est disponible via  safety@cpj.org

French version

Congolese journalist detained, accused of “compromising” the president by taking pictures of bread delivery conditions

New York, January 25, 2018 – The Committee to Protect Journalists today declared that the DRC authorities should investigate those responsible for the harassment and detention of Willy Akonda, a journalist with the newspaper private ACTUALITE.CD , and bring them to justice.

On January 23, Congolese military intelligence officers (DEMIAP) detained Akonda for nine hours, accusing him of taking photos that “compromised” President Joseph Kabila, the CPJ reporter said. The military intelligence service also confiscated Akonda’s two mobile phones and returned them to them the next day, he said in an interview with CPJ following the return of his devices.

Akonda was taking pictures of the conditions for transporting bread in Kinshasa, the capital of the DRC, when a plainclothes man who introduced himself as a soldier arrested the journalist, according to Akonda.

The man in plainclothes who had identified himself as DEMIAP’s agent took Akonda to the local police station before transferring him to the military intelligence bureau, where DEMIAP members examined the contents of his two mobile phones, Akonda said.

”  The manager of this office called” Major “threatened me with death and said that he could even shoot me without any problem because he only responds to the president alone,  ” Akonda told CPJ. ”  They handcuffed both my hands behind me and  started  handcuffing me extremely hard to make me hurt more, ” he added. 

After being questioned by DEMIAP agents, Akonda was locked in a room, sitting on a piece of metal until he was released, he said.

“Willy Akonda should never have been arrested, detained or abused,” said Angela Quintal, coordinator of CPJ’s Africa program. “It is absurd that the authorities associate photography with an offense against the Head of State. The Congolese authorities must stop arresting journalists who cover matters of public interest. “

According to a  report  from ACTUALITE.CD , the DEMIAP chief, Delphin Kahimbi, has promised sanctions against the officers responsible for the harassment of Akonda without specifying what action would be taken or when.

When CPJ contacted the Congolese colonel only known as Maurice, who, according to Akonda, had facilitated his release, the colonel asked CPJ to recall him later. Any subsequent attempt to reach him has been in vain.

In recent months,  CPJ has documented  frequent cases of harassment, arrest and detention of journalists while practicing in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

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