Congo-Kinshasa: DRC Police Detain Journalist Masand Mafuta, Slap Him, Seize Equipment and Money

A North Kivu camp for people displaced by battles in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (file photo)

Kinshasa — Authorities in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) must hold accountable the police officers who arrested and then assaulted journalist Masand Mafuta, and ensure his belongings are returned, the Committee for the Protection of Journalists said on Wednesday.

On February 23, at least six police officers in the capital, Kinshasa, detained Masand, general director of the Culture Congo news website, confiscated his camera, dictaphone, and telephone, as well as around US$300 in cash, and slapped him in the face, before releasing him the same day, according to media reports and Masand, who spoke with CPJ via messaging app.

"The DRC authorities must hold accountable the officers who detained journalist Masand Mafuta in Kinshasa and slapped him in the face, and return the equipment and money they seized," said Angela Quintal, head of CPJ's Africa program, from New York. "The attack on Masand is unfortunately not an isolated incident and comes as part of a steady trend of Congolese law enforcement and security forces targeting and abusing the press."

Masand said he had been conducting interviews with people in the Matonge district of Kinshasa on the importance of traditional masks when police stopped him and accused him of seeking to smear the image of the country and Congolese authorities on social media.

Masand added that officers assaulted him after he had shown them his press card and explained that he was just doing his job.

He said that the officers' slaps left his lips swollen, and that they drove him around for about five hours before dropping him outside the Tshatshi military camp on the western side of Kinshasa. The officers returned his cell phone but kept the rest of his belongings, he said.

Masand told CPJ that he went to the Matonge/Kalamu neighborhood police station the same day to file a complaint about the incident, but that an officer there told him he must pay US$50 to submit the complaint, which Masand declined to do.

CPJ's calls to the Kinshasa police commissioner Blaise Kilimbambalimba went unanswered.

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