Congo prosecutor seeks 20-year jail sentence for journalist

By Thomson Reuters Mar 8, 2024 | 2:32 PM

DAKAR (Reuters) – A prosecutor in the Democratic Republic of Congo has asked a court in the capital Kinshasa to sentence journalist Stanis Bujakera to 20 years in prison, one of his lawyers said on Friday.

Bujakera, a Congolese national who works for international media outlets including Reuters, was detained on Sept. 8 and later charged with spreading false information about the death of a prominent opposition politician.

He denies the charges.

“The prosecutor has requested that our client be sentenced for the sum of all offences to a cumulative penalty of 20 years, and the payment of one million Congolese francs ($364),” Bujakera’s lawyer, Jean-Marie Kabengela, told reporters outside the court.

“We are waiting for the court to rule.” The court is likely to issue a verdict next week.

The case stems from an article published by French news magazine Jeune Afrique about the circumstances of the death of Cherubin Okende, a former transport minister whose body was found in Kinshasa on July 13.

Jeune Afrique said last September it stood by its Aug. 31 story, which said that an internal report by the National Intelligence Agency had accused military intelligence agents of possible involvement in Okende’s killing. The magazine has demanded Bujakera’s release, adding that he was not the author of the article and his name was not on it.

Congolese authorities have disputed the authenticity of the article. They said last month that Okende took his own life.

Local and international rights groups including Reporters Without Borders and Amnesty International condemned Bujakera’s detention, calling it an attack on press freedom. Reuters has also called for his release.

($1 = 2,745.0000 Congolese francs)

(Writing by Bate Felix; Editing by Silvia Aloisi and Frances Kerry)