Journalists assaulted prior to press conference

Expression

Unidentified perpetrators who presented themselves as part of the security forces assaulted several journalists prior to the start of a press conference organised on 30th November 2017 by the lawyers of opposition politician André Okombi Salissa, a former candidate in the March 2016 presidential elections. A correspondent for Radio France International (RFI) and Agence France-Presse was among the journalists attacked, and whose telephone and equipment were confiscated by the assailants. 

Opposition politician Okomi Salissa was arrested in January 2017, after six months in hiding on charges of "possession of weapons of war" and "undermining state security". In response to the attack before the press conference, his lawyer, Yvon Eric Ibouanga, told RFI that:

"We were prevented from exercising a constitutional right! It's an attitude that violates individual freedoms, violates fundamental rights, violates the freedom of expression!" (Translated from French)

In a separate incident, on 4th November 2017 human rights organisations, including l'Obsevatoire congolais des droits de l'homme and l’Association pour les droits de l'homme dans l'univers carcéral, among others, demanded the release of journalist Ghys Fortuné Dombé Bemba, who has been in preventive detention since January 2017 in Brazzaville, and is in bad health, according to the human rights organisations. As reported previously on the Monitor, Dombé Bemba - the editor of the Talassa newspaper - was arrested on 11th January 2017 and charged with "complicity in undermining internal security", allegedly because of the newspaper's publication of comments by former rebel leader Pastor Ntumi (also known as Frédéric Bintsamou), who is wanted by the authorities in connection with an attack in Brazzaville on 4th April 2016. The newspaper was also "permanently banned" by Congo's media regulator. 

Peaceful Assembly

Congolese police dispersed a meeting of Pointe Noire lawyers on 2nd December 2017, when they attempted to gather and discuss a colleague, Steve Bagne, who had been arrested on 27th Novemer 2017 at his office in Brazzaville. The lawyers had planned to join the strike to protest Bagne's arrest, before being forced to disband the meeting at the court of appeal by police officers, who were allegedly heavily armed.