By Gael Masengi
|Joachim Diana Gikupa|
In the DR. Congo being an investigative journalist or simply reporting facts might without doubt lend you some time in jail. That’s what happened to the editor-in-chief of a locally based private newspaper; Joachim Diana Gikupa working for La Colombe was sentenced to six months in prison in December on charge of “defamation”.
In an article titled “Chinese undesirable for various crimes” written and published last year on February 9th, the journalist is accused of divulging what the prosecutor called “false information”, in it, Mr Diana Gikupa is hailed by health experts for exposing numerous shocking realities which take place in daily basis inside a Chinese-run hospital in Kinshasa. Tiang Sheng, an apparent dubious Chinese businessman and owner of Gen Taï pharmaceutics is apparently involved in manufacturing and selling pharmaceutical products which according to the findings are not appropriate for use as they are expired and considered dangerous for public health. The article also went on to criticize the tactics used by the health establishment to hire unqualified employees and detailed how abusive C-section is performed on pregnant women among others, Gen Taï denied the allegations then filed a complaint against Gikupa. The journalist –who at the time of his conviction –was not able to afford a legal team was arrested on Tuesday and held at a local court before being transferred to Makala central prison. Gikupa is also ordered to pay USD20, 000 in damages.
Last week the New York based Committee to Protect Journalist (CPJ) issued a statement. In it, the media watchdog called the authorities of the Democratic republic of Congo (DRC) to release pending appeal, Mr Diana Gikupa whose health is said to be in poor condition since his arrest more than a week ago.
“We condemn the Democratic Republic of Congo’s continued use of criminal defamation charges to jail journalists for their critical reporting on issues of public interest,” said Mohamed Keita CPJ Africa Advocacy Coordinator. “Joachim Diana Gikupa should be released on bail pending his appeal, and we urge the DRC to refer matters of defamation to civilian tribunals. Critical journalists are not criminals” he concludes
Meanwhile the DRC which currently seats in ‘Difficult Situation for reporters’ position, is ranked 145 out of 179 on Reporters Sans Frontiere’s (RSF) 2011-2012 world press freedom index.An absolute outsider in free speech yet the country is not showing any sign of change especially under the Kabila regime which many press-freedom advocates regard as journalists “predator”. Under this regime countless of free-speech activists and critical-to-government journalists have been jailed, tortured and even murdered at some extent by the security forces.