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Journalist's murder highlights deteriorating press freedom situation in east

Journalist Bruno Koko Chirambiza was stabbed to death on 23 August in eastern D.R.C.
Journalist Bruno Koko Chirambiza was stabbed to death on 23 August in eastern D.R.C.

JED

A radio presenter was stabbed to death last weekend in Bukavu, the latest in a string of events that raises serious press freedom concerns in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo, report Journaliste en Danger (JED), the International Press Institute (IPI) and Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

Bruno Koko Chirambiza, a journalist for the privately owned radio station Radio Star, and a friend were ambushed by eight assailants in plainclothes on their way home from a wedding on 23 August, say the IFEX members. According to RSF, the circumstances of the attack suggest he was targeted: the friend escaped unharmed and none of Chirambiza's belongings were taken.

Chirambiza was buried the day after his death without an autopsy. An autopsy "would have been a good start to identify the perpetrators as well as the motive behind the attack," said JED.

JED demands that Bukavu's provincial authorities take seriously the investigation into the murder, instead of simply attributing it to the general insecurity that reigns in Sud-Kivu. "If not, they risk supporting the impunity of those who openly attack journalists and media outlets because of their work," said JED.

Chirambiza is the third journalist to be killed in the Sud-Kivu city under mysterious circumstances in recent years, say the IFEX members. Two journalists for the UN-run station Radio Okapi, Serge Maheshe and Didace Namujimbo, were killed on 13 June 2007 and 21 November 2008, respectively.

Over the past year, journalists have faced heightened risk in covering renewed fighting between DRC armed forces and other armed groups in eastern DRC, including rebel Rwandan Hutu forces, near the Rwandan border.

Last week, the National Intelligence Agency (ANR) threatened three radio stations in Butembo, Nord-Kivu, with closure if they continue to retransmit Radio France Internationale's (RFI) signal, report the IFEX members.

The transmission of RFI broadcasts has been banned throughout the country since 26 July, after RFI explained why certain militias allegedly deserted the DRC army.

The Communications Minister had accused RFI of "trying to incite soldiers to disobey their superiors and to revolt, and stirring up problems in the barracks while the country is at war," RSF and JED reported.

"We are witnessing an intensification of power against press freedom and the international media reporting on the situation prevailing in the country's east," said Tshivis Tshivuada of JED. "This information, reporting on extortion committed by the Congolese Army against the civilian population, is extremely embarrassing for the government. This is the reason why RFI, the most listened to station by the Congolese people, has had its signal cut."

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