The arrest and imprisonment of Stanis Bujakera Tshiamala has provoked a wave of indignation in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and beyond.
Stanis, a correspondent for Jeune Afrique and Reuters in the country, and co-founder and director of the Congolese news website Actualité.cd, is being prosecuted for “forgery of documents, falsification of State seals, propagation of false rumours and transmission of erroneous messages contrary to the law”. He faces up to 10 years in prison.
At the first hearing in the trial, which opened on 13 October before the Kinshasa-Gombe high court, the prosecutor repeated these accusations and described Stanis as a “devil” and “satan” (remarks he later withdrew), and made a series of slanderous statements about the journalist and the media outlets he works for.
Stanis vehemently denies the charges against him, and his defence lawyers have questioned the credibility of the expert reports on which the prosecution is based. The trial – described as “political” by the NGO Reporters Without Borders – has provoked reactions from human rights organisations, professional journalists’ associations and, more broadly, the Congolese society.
Since our colleague’s arrest on 8 September, more than 100 high-profile figures and organisations have added their voices to the campaign launched on social media to demand Stanis’s release and the dropping of the charges against him. More generally, there is demand for commitment by the Congolese authorities to ensure respect for press freedom and the rule of law, as the country prepares to embark on an electoral campaign for the presidential election in December.
Call to action
Press cartoonists are now joining the fray, taking up their pencils and brushes to express their indignation at Stanis’s imprisonment. Around 10 artists have responded so far to the call for action launched by cartoonist Damien Glez, a contributor to Jeune Afrique who has mobilised his colleagues and friends in the Cartooning for Peace network.
“It seemed important to me, as a press cartoonist, to take action for Stanis. A cartoonist is a journalist in a class of his own, and he doesn’t claim to be a legal specialist, but the case of this Congolese journalist really struck a chord with me, and not just because he is a JA colleague,” says Glez.
By trying to stifle one voice, they have forgotten that there are millions of others behind it
“[My colleagues] were keen to pick up their pencils quickly and express their indignation, each in their own style,” Glez says.
More artists have promised to follow suit, including members of the Africartoons network.
“This #FreeStanis project is particularly interesting for cartoonists, because we are defenders of freedom of expression and we support all our colleagues in the media whose rights are being trampled underfoot,” says its founder John Curtis. “Cartoons are an excellent means of advocacy, as they can get complex messages across quickly and in a way that everyone can understand.”
Jeune Afrique, in collaboration with Actualité.cd, is today publishing these artists’ drawings, which will also be shared on social media throughout the week. The images below are clickable and easily downloadable, for those who would like to share them.
Damien Glez (Burkina Faso)
Glez, a French-Burkinabé press cartoonist, has talents that span a number of areas – you can read his columns in Jeune Afrique and he also works with Radio France Internationale, Congolese forum Habari RDC and the online community Benbere. He is a lyricist and a TV scriptwriter too, and was the editor of Journal du jeudi, a pioneering satirical weekly publication in Burkina Faso.
Tunisian cartoonist Mykaïa Tramoni-Caparros has set himself a mission to “make people think, act or speak out, sometimes even provoke” with his work. His favourite targets? “Crass stupidity and fundamentalism of all kinds,” he says. His wry, offbeat humour can be seen in a number of media outlets, including Siné Hebdo and Le Monde and TV channels ARTE and France Ô.
Constant Tonakpa (Benin)
Constant Tonakpa, a previous winner of the RFI-RSF prize in the press cartoon category, works with numerous media and publishing houses. He writes comic strips and is active in a number of international associations as well as networks of press cartoonists.
Main2Dieu (Burkina Faso)
Main2Dieu – whose real name is Christian Arnaud Bassole – is a cartoonist from Burkina Faso who writes for several of his country’s media outlets, including L’Étalon, Le Pays and Sidwaya. Since 2019, he has also been publishing his drawings in Gbich!, a satirical newspaper in Côte d’Ivoire.
El Marto (Burkina Faso)
Born in France, El Marto studied there before moving to Burkina Faso, where his father is from. In addition to his satirical press cartoons, he has also illustrated journalistic investigations, created a giant fresco that hangs in the streets of Meknès and written a graphic novel.
Dum, a press cartoonist since the early 1990s, has worked with a wide range of media and been involved with Cartooning for Peace. He is also a regular visitor to schools and colleges where he promotes the art of press cartooning.
Justin Kasereka (Democratic Republic of Congo)
Originally from the east of DRC, where he now lives after several years in Kinshasa, Justin Kasereka is an uncompromising visual chronicler of the insecurity that prevails in his native Kivu. In his work, which the Demif gallery describes as “a plunge into African ethnographic symbolism and a projection towards a possible future”, he seeks to “project us out of collective and selective amnesia”.
Joël Adotévi (Togo)
Joël Adotévi, an illustrator, cartoonist and press artist from Togo, oscillates between two opposing graphic styles, one semi-realistic, the other more unbridled. For him, drawing for Stanis was an obvious choice. “As a journalist and cartoonist, as an opinion leader, I felt oppressed in the performance of my duties,” he says.
Edizon Musavuli (DRC)
Edizon Musavuli, a 28-year-old Congolese artist, is a regular contributor to Habari RDC. He wanted to contribute to the campaign to release Stanis because he believes that “by trying to stifle one voice, they have forgotten that there are millions of others behind it”.
Rox, a French cartoonist who shuns the limelight and prefers to keep his real identity a secret, publishes his drawings across African media – Le Marabout, Le Journal du jeudi, La Mèche and Zélium.
Understand Africa’s tomorrow… today
We believe that Africa is poorly represented, and badly under-estimated. Beyond the vast opportunity manifest in African markets, we highlight people who make a difference; leaders turning the tide, youth driving change, and an indefatigable business community. That is what we believe will change the continent, and that is what we report on. With hard-hitting investigations, innovative analysis and deep dives into countries and sectors, The Africa Report delivers the insight you need.