Congo President Denis Sassou Nguesso has been called on to free jailed newspaper editor, Ghys Fortuné Dombé Bemba.Picture: Xinhua

Johannesburg - The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has again called on Congo President Denis Sassou Nguesso to free jailed Ghys Fortuné Dombé Bemba, editor of the privately-owned newspaper, Talassa.

Bemba has been incarcerated since January and earlier requests by the CPJ to have him released have not been heeded.

On Tuesday, the CPJ said, together with Reporters Sans Frontières, they have written a letter to President Nguesso to ask that he frees the jailed journalist,

"The Committee to Protect Journalists and Reporters Sans Frontières, two independent press freedom advocacy organisations, write to express our deep concern about the jailing without charge of Ghys Fortuné Dombé Bemba, editor of the privately-owned newspaper Talassa, since January," reads part of the letter.

Congo security services arrested Bemba in Brazzaville on January 11, 2017.

The Public Prosecutor André Oko Ngakala said the editor is accused of "complicity in undermining state security" in connection with his publication of a statement by former rebel leader Frédéric Bintsamou, also known as Pastor Ntumi.

Bemba's arrest followed Congolese authorities' visit to Talassa's office on January 9 to prevent the newspaper's publication.

"A formal request on July 13, 2017, for Bemba's release while awaiting trial was denied, and a trial date was not set, according to a person tracking his case. When CPJ in July 2017 contacted Séraphin Ondele, cabinet director of the minister of the interior for Republic of the Congo, he said he was unaware of Bemba's case," said CPJ. 

"This is not the first time Bemba and Talassa have been targeted by Congolese authorities. Bemba was arrested in 2015 in connection with an article critical of your administration, and Talassa was suspended in 2007 and 2013."

The CPJ said Bemba's detention for more than eight months without trial is "inhumane, and sends a chilling message" to the media in the Congo that the government will not respect the fundamental right of journalists to gather and impart information and that they too could be jailed. 

In the letter to President Nguesso, which was signed off by Executive Director Joel Simon, the CPJ said: "We urge you to use your office to ensure that Ghys Fortuné Dombé Bemba is immediately freed and that all investigations against him are dropped. Freedom of the press in the Republic of the Congo depends on a climate in which journalists can work without fear of reprisal, which in turn depends on your leadership."