Journalist Stanis Bujakera Denied Bail in the Congo

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, a court has refused to grant provisional release to journalist Stanis Bujakera, defying international bail standards and sparking global outrage over his ongoing incarceration at Kinshasa’s Makala prison. Bujakera’s case sheds light on the government’s escalating crackdown on the media, occurring less than three months before the upcoming general election.

Stanis Bujakera, aged 33, holds the position of deputy director at the Congolese online news outlet, works as a reporter for Jeune Afrique and the international news agency Reuters. He is the most widely followed journalist on social media in the country and has received accolades for his professionalism from peers, readers, government officials, foreign diplomats, and researchers alike.

On September 8, police arrested Bujakera at Kinshasa’s Ndjili airport while he was waiting to board a flight. Initially held in police custody, he was subsequently placed in pretrial detention and transferred to prison on September 14. He faces charges of “spreading false information,” “forgery and the use of forged documents,” and “distributing false documents,” potentially subjecting him to a 15-year prison sentence, according to his lawyer. Authorities interrogated Bujakera regarding an article published by Jeune Afrique, which cited an allegedly leaked intelligence report concerning the murder of Cherubin Okende, an opposition official found dead in Kinshasa in July. Authorities claim the report is fraudulent and accuse Bujakera of creating and disseminating it, despite the article not being attributed to him.

Bujakera expressed his frustration during a visit to Makala prison, stating, “They want me to reveal sources for an article I didn’t write. That’s why they have confiscated my phones and my laptop.”

Bujakera’s arbitrary arrest and detention have been widely condemned by activists across Africa, foreign officials, press freedom organizations, and international celebrities. Reporters Without Borders has referred his case to the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention. On September 20, numerous journalists in Kinshasa staged a demonstration, demanding his release and an end to attacks against the press.

While addressing the media in New York City last week, Congolese President FĂ©lix Tshisekedi expressed regret for the situation but emphasized that he cannot obstruct justice and must allow it to fully investigate. Bujakera’s detention serves as a stark reminder that Tshisekedi’s earlier commitment to having the media serve as “a genuine fourth estate” has faded into obscurity. A democracy that respects rights does not imprison journalists for simply performing their duties.

Scroll to Top