(Reuters) – The government of Democratic Republic of Congo will closely follow the case of detained journalist Stanis Bujakera, communications minister Patrick Muyaya said on Thursday in the government’s first comments since his detention last week.
Bujakera, who works for international media outlets including Reuters, was detained at the airport in the capital Kinshasa on Sept. 8 on suspicion of spreading false information about the killing of a prominent opposition politician in an article published by French news magazine Jeune Afrique, the magazine said.
He is accused of “spreading false rumours” and the “dissemination of false information” about the case, the magazine said in online statements. But it said the article in question did not carry his name, and “he cannot be held responsible” for its content.
Local and international rights groups including Human Rights Watch have expressed concern about his detention, calling it an attack on press freedom.
Speaking to journalists in Kinshasa, Muyaya said “a journalist going to prison is not good news.”
He declined to comment on the merits of the case, citing the independence of the judiciary from the government, but said “we will follow the case closely until its conclusion.”
“We hold freedom of the press dear. It is a cardinal value of democracy, but it is also a freedom which does not give a blank check for disinformation,” he said.
“We hope that the case which is following a normal course … can be resolved quickly,” he said.
(Reporting by Reuters newsroom; Writing by Alessandra Prentice; Editing by Daniel Wallis)