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ATTACKS AGAINST MEDIA CONTINUE

Attacks against the media continue in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), which has one of the worst press freedom records in Africa and in the world, according to Journaliste en danger (JED). The organisation made the remarks in a press release marking National Press Day in the DRC on 22 July.

Since Joseph Kabila became president in January 2001, JED has documented 38 cases of attacks against the press by "those who hold political and economic power." These include: 6 cases of imprisonment, 8 detentions, 10 aggressions and/or threats, 4 cases of constraints on the free circulation of information, 5 cases of censorship and confiscation of media outlets as well as 5 cases of judicial pressure. One journalist, Freddy Loseke Lisumbu la Yayenga, publisher of the newspaper "La Libre Afrique", is currently imprisoned in the DRC.

One "scandalous case" noted by JED is the government's confiscation of Radio-Television Kin Malebo (RTKM), owned by Congolese journalist and political figure Aubain Ngongo Luwowo. A commission investigating the legality of the confiscation has completed its work without releasing a report. In addition, "public media are monopolised by a single opinion, that of the government," while private media, which try to provide other perspectives, are kept in line. For example, a video tape containing an interview given by opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi to the private television chain RAGA TV has been locked up in the president's office for three months without ever being televised. It is also becoming increasingly common for the authorities to launch trials against journalists.

JED's recommendations to the government include the immediate release of Freddy Loseke, the decriminalisation of press offences and the return of RTKM to its owner along with compensation for damages. JED recognises that journalists, for their part, "are not all angels." The organisation calls for the creation of an independent press council to regulate the media, which would allow journalists to be judged and sanctioned by their peers rather than by government authorities. JED also calls on journalists to respect the ethics of the profession and to show greater professionalism to avoid providing pretexts for "press freedom predators."

On 22 June, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) wrote to DRC President Joseph Kabila expressing deep concern over the government's "continued persecution of independent journalists and news outlets." In the letter, which documents a long list of violations, CPJ notes that "conditions for Congolese journalists have only worsened" since it first protested the Kabila administrations "heavy-handed treatment" of the media on 10 April.

For more information, see www.congonline.com/Jed/ and www.cpj.org.


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