Congolese journalist Sébastien Mulamba charged with possession of weapons, criminal association and armed robbery after critical radio comment

Dakar, April 28, 2022 — Congolese authorities should drop charges against journalist Sébastien Mulamba, stop harassing him and investigate the search of his home, the Journalists Project Committee said Thursday.

At around 3 a.m. on April 21, police arrested Mulamba, a journalist and director of the private company News from Kisanganiat his home in Kisangani, the capital of the northern province of Tshopo, according to hurry reports and the journalist, who spoke to CPJ by phone. Mulamba also appears as a guest commentator on local radio programs, according to these sources.

Mulamba and Ernest Mukula, a representative of the National Union of Congolese Press in Kisangani, both told CPJ they believe the arrest was in retaliation for Mulamba’s guest comment on the program “Orient Hebo,” broadcast by Radio Flamboyant Orient at the University of Kisangani. During the broadcast, Mulamba repeatedly criticized the governor of Tshopo province, Abibu Sakapela, the journalist told CPJ, without giving further details.

“Congolese authorities should drop the charges against Sébastien Mulamba and fully investigate the violent raid on his home,” said Angela Quintal, CPJ’s Africa Program Coordinator, from New York. “Journalists in the Democratic Republic of Congo are too often victims of violent harassment and detention.

The unknown number of uniformed officers who arrested Mulamba on April 21 were wearing balaclavas that covered their faces, forced their way into the house, smashed doors and windows and fired shots in the air , Mulamba told CPJ. After gaining access to the home, officers tied Mulamba’s hands, took his phone and refused to explain the reason for the arrest, the journalist told CPJ. “They [the police] found me in front of my children and tied me up without telling me why,” Mulamba said.

The officers then took Mulamba to the local police station and detained him for six hours, he told CPJ. The police released him with his phone and charged him with illegal possession of weapons, criminal association and armed robbery. The contents of Mulamba’s phone were deleted, he said.

Police told Mulamba to be ready to come back if they called, he said. No court date has been set and if convicted, Mulamba faces the death penalty, in accordance with Articles 85 and 150 of the Penal Code. Mulamba denied the charges, telling CPJ they are unfounded.

CPJ’s calls to Sakapela went unanswered. Messages for comment sent via the messaging app to Sakapela and Kazingu Voda, a Kisangani police spokesperson, were marked as “read”, but received no response.

Andrew B. Reiter