Police on Friday went to Smith's office in the capital, Brazzaville, and ordered him to leave the country, citing an expulsion order signed by the interior minister forbidding him from returning to the Congo, according to news reports. The police accused Smith of unspecified seditious and subversive acts and comments and of working against the interest of the government in favor of foreign powers, news reports said. Smith works for the pro-government broadcaster MNTV, which is owned by Congolese President Denis Sassou Nguesso's brother.
Smith told journalists in Cameroon that he believes he was forced to leave the country because he had demanded that police continue their investigation into the September 10 attack on him and his family. He said he had been told that the attack was likely in retaliation for his coverage of the opposition. Smith said that the assailants who raided his home and attacked his sister were on the phone with someone the entire time. Police later arrested suspects identified as Congolese security personnel but did not apprehend the mastermind, according to news reports.
CPJ contacted Interior Minister Raymond Mboulou by phone today, but the minister disconnected the call after CPJ asked him what specific seditions and subversive acts and comments Smith was accused of making. CPJ did not receive a response to a text message sent to the minister.
"Someone tried to silence journalist Elie Smith by attacking him and his family, but it didn't work. Now authorities have tried to silence him by expelling him from the country," said Peter Nkanga, CPJ's West Africa representative. "We call on the authorities to thoroughly investigate the attack on Smith and his family and bring all perpetrators, including the mastermind, to justice. We further call on them to allow Smith and all other journalists in the Republic of Congo to do their jobs without fear of retaliation."
Smith is the second journalist to be expelled from the Congo in a week. On September 23, police forced freelance journalist Sadio Kante to leave the country, accusing her of disturbing the peace, drug consumption and illegal residence, according to CPJ research. Kante denied the allegations and said she was born in Brazzaville of a Malian father and Senegalese mother. Kante said that her coverage of the attack on Smith had angered police and that she had received threats after her stories were published, according to news reports. She did not elaborate on the kind of threats she received.