The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has said it is "deeply concerned" about the imprisonment of Jean-Denis Lompoto, the publications director of the twice-weekly satirical newspaper Pili-Pili, after it published a corruption allegation story concerning a minister of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
In an open letter addressed to Congolese President Joseph Kabila, the committee said on Wednesday it was also disturbed about a recent police attack on three television journalists covering police activity in the country's capital, Kinshasa.
"Police attacks on journalists who are covering issues of legitimate public concern have sadly become routine in the [DRC]. This harassment often goes unpunished," the committee said.
It called on Kabila "to do everything" in his power to ensure respect for the rule of law and for reporters to be allowed to cover events freely and "without fear of reprisal".
Lompoto was arrested on 19 March and transferred to Kinshasa Central Prison on 21 March, the Congolese press freedom group, Journaliste en Danger, reported. The arrest warrant charged Lompoto, editor Prosper Dawe, and reporter Angwalima with defaming Mines Minister Eugene Diomi Ndongala, by reporting on corruption allegations against him in an article published on 3 March.
Lompoto told a representative of Journaliste en Danger, who visited him in prison, that he had been brought before a magistrate on 20 March but had not been given a hearing with legal representation.
In another incident, on 15 March, police attacked and detained three reporters from private television station Radio-Television Kin-Malebo, apparently in reprisal for covering a police operation, Journaliste en Danger reported. It said the police manhandled and confiscated the equipment of Robert Kadima Baruani, Milla Dipenga and Eric Ambago as they attempted to record scenes of police removing residents from a building whose ownership was in dispute.