A court in the Democratic Republic of Congo sentenced a man to death for murdering a journalist, but acquitted four other defendants in the case, the lawyer for the victim’s family said on Tuesday.
The penalty was handed down by the High Court in the northeastern town Boende late Monday after Eoma Pendeli Musa was found “guilty of the murder of Soleil Balanga”, Elvis Boto told AFP by telephone.
Balanga, 45, worked for a community radio station, Monkoto Soso Eleli (“The Cock Crows” in Lingala) in Monkoto, a town of about 5 000 people that sits in the nation’s northwest.
Musa slit Balanga’s throat on April 15, 2015, accusing the journalist of broadcasting news that his father Jean-Pierre Soma Pendeli Domaro was to be replaced in his hospital supervisor’s post.
Judicial authorities arrested five people after the murder and put them on trial. Boto said he was “disappointed by this verdict”, which acquitted Musa’s father and a former doctor at the hospital, Charles Tete Ndjeka, along with two others.
According to the lawyer, Pendeli Domaro and Ndjeka were “morally responsible for the murder”.
“We plan to appeal,” Boto added.
Press freedom group OLPA, a Congolese non-governmental organisation, welcomed Musa’s conviction.
“This is a strong signal to anybody who threatens the life of a journalist and who is tempted to believe that they will enjoy impunity,” OLPA executive secretary Joseph Alain Kabongo told AFP.
In April last year, international watchdogReporters Without Borders (RSF) denounced Balanga’s murder and stated that deadly attacks on journalists in the DRC were rarely investigated.
In 2013 and 2014, “60 journalists were beaten or threatened” in the vast central African country, according to RSF.
The DRC stood in 150th place out of 180 in the global press freedom ratings released by RSF for 2015.