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JED appeals for end to state violence against media in World Press Freedom Day statement

(JED/IFEX) - The following is an abridged 2 May 2007 JED press release:

JED appeals for the end of state violence against journalists and the media

Kinshasa, 2 May 2007

On the occasion of the 17th World Press Freedom Day on 3 May 2007, JED wishes to draw the attention of the public, both nationally and internationally, to the worrying press freedom situation in DR Congo. It also wishes to call the attention of the new institutions born out of recent elections to their responsibilities for the necessary and urgent reforms required for the exercise of press freedom with the aim of reinforcing democracy and stimulating the country's reconstruction.

While the themes of this day are "press freedom, the security of journalists and impunity," JED notes, unfortunately, that it is becoming more and more dangerous to work as a journalist in Kinshasa and several provinces in the country, as illustrated by the high number of journalists and other media professionals who experience violence because of their work.

During the first three months of 2007, which coincides with the establishment of the new political institutions, JED was able to count at least 27 cases of attacks against journalists and the media. At least 20 of these cases consist of imprisonment, assaults or torture, open or anonymous threats and destruction of media outlets.

With regard to the recorded incidences of attacks against journalists and the media, JED notes that more than 90 percent of the cases of violence against the press were committed by agents of the state, most notably the special services or civil and military intelligence branches. Journalists arrested by these services are detained for long periods during which they are beaten and tortured before being transferred to the central prison, where they can be held many long months before appearing in front of a judge.

JED also notes that during the last two years, two journalists - Franck Ngyke (as well as his wife) and Bapuwa Mwamba - have been killed in Kinshasa and no serious investigation has been undertaken to determine the motive for these crimes and to identify those who may be behind them.

In response to this state of affairs, in which journalists are arrested, beaten and imprisoned without being sentenced, and media outlets are occupied by armed men and reduced to silence, JED appeals to the authorities to put an end to this state violence against journalists and the media. JED denounces the impunity enjoyed by identifiable individuals who violently attack media professionals and asks the government to accelerate the reforms already announced to transform the Congolese judicial system out of its current state of corrupted justice in the service of the rich and powerful.

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