Congolese political reporter “should not be in prison”

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls for the immediate release of Peter Tiani, arrested over a defamation case on November 7th 2018 after he relayed that a large sum of money was stolen from the home of Bruno Tshibala, the Democratic Republic of Congo’s prime minister.

It’s been almost a month since Peter Tiani, producer of a video news magazine called Le Vrai Journal was arrested on a criminal defamation charge in the Kinshasa’s Makala prison, for reporting that a large sum of money was stolen from the home of Bruno Tshibala, the Democratic Republic of Congo’s prime minister, an alleged theft that was originally published in an article for the website on 27 October. Tiani is facing a possible one-year jail sentence. He is due to appear at a hearing today at which prosecutors will simply ask the court to extend his pre-trial detention for another 30 days. The substance of the case against him will not be considered. At no point have prosecutors presented grounds for holding him pending trial.

This journalist should not be in prison,” said Arnaud Froger, the head of RSF’s Africa desk. “There is no need to wait before examining the substance of the defamation charges brought against him and there are certainly no grounds for keeping him in preventive detention.” Froger added: “Many other media outlets carried the same story but Peter Tiani is the only journalist to have been arrested. With less than three weeks to go until the presidential election, his detention has all the hallmarks of a personal reprisal or an attempt to silence a reporter who is popular and, at the same time, critical of the government.

Tiani’s political reporting has a sizeable audience. His Twitter account has 5,000 followers and his YouTube channel has more than 8,000 subscribers. In a show of support on 23 November, fellow journalists demonstrated outside the prime minister’s office and then outside his home.

A few days before his arrest, Tiani reported on Twitter that he was being threatened in connection with his coverage of the prime minister. In December 2017, he posted a video report on YouTube called “Duty to remember” that was a compilation of comments critical of President Joseph Kabila that Tshibala had made when still one of Kabila’s opponents.

The DRC is ranked 154th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2018 World Press Freedom Index.