Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on the authorities in Kasaï-Oriental province, in the southeast of the Democratic Republic of Congo, to drop all charges against Faustin Mbiya, a radio journalist who was held arbitrarily for three days for violating Covid-19 lockdown measures. Journalism is an essential activity during a crisis, RSF said.
The programme director of Fondation Daniel Madimba, a radio station based in Mbuji-Mayi, the provincial capital, Faustin Mbiya was arrested on 9 May on his return from producing a broadcast in Tshilenge, 25 km to the east. He was freed on bail of 300,000 Congolese francs (160 euros) on 12 May pending trial on charges of "violating emergency health measures" and "insulting the provincial authorities."
"We urge the authorities to drop all charges against this journalist, who had no place being in prison," said Arnaud Froger, the head of RSF's Africa desk. "The Congolese authorities and security forces must allow journalists to work freely. Their job of reporting the news is absolutely essential for combatting the coronavirus epidemic effectively." Froger added: "This latest imprisonment of a journalist also speaks to the urgency of adopting a moratorium on arrests of journalists in the DRC. Only firm political decisions of this kind, taken at the highest level of the state, will be capable of reducing the still very numerous abuses against journalists in the DRC."
According to RSF's tally, a total of 26 journalists have been arrested in connection with their coronavirus coverage in sub-Saharan Africa since the start of the epidemic, and around 20 have been attacked while gathering information about the epidemic (with 90% of the attacks being carried out by members of the security forces).
The victims have included Tholi Totaly Glody, a reporter for Alfajari TV in the DRC's Haut-Katanga province, who was deliberately run down by a police car in March while travelling on a motorcycle to cover compliance with the lockdown ordered by the governor.
The DRC is ranked 150th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2020 World Press Freedom Index.