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Media workers assaulted by political party activists in Kinshasa

(JED/IFEX) - In a 26 November 2008 letter to Antoine Gizenga, national secretary of the Unified Lumumbist Party (Parti lumumbiste unifié, PALU), copied to the justice minister and public prosecutor, among others, JED strongly denounced "the attack on media professionals at the PALU headquarters in Kinshasa/Matete after being invited by telephone to cover a public demonstration by the party." JED said it was "particularly shocked that these serious violations of press freedom come from a party that fought for a long period in opposition and suffered the torment of repression during the dictatorship as a result of its demands for democracy in the DR Congo, and which, now that it is in power, gives the unfortunate impression of acting as a predator against democracy and press freedom."

Without predicting the results of the police and judicial investigations that have been launched following these incidents, JED holds Gizenga, in his position as PALU's leader and moral authority, responsible for the physical injuries suffered by the media professionals and, therefore, asked the "Patriarch" to call to order his party's activists so that they stop such violent acts against the press.

According to the statements gathered by JED from victims and witnesses of these incidents, on 24 November 2008, cameramen Mutombo Kabeya (Afrika TV), Jean-Claude Bode (Tropicana TV), Jose Ngalamulume (Global TV), Olivier Mbuilu (Congoweb TV) and Yves Songila (Horizon 33) were confined at PALU headquarters from 12:00 noon to 3:00 p.m. (local time), and badly beaten by unleashed party activists for having recorded images of clashes among activists at the party's headquarters.

Broadcasting equipment and cameras were destroyed and videotapes seized. At least two of the cameramen came away with bruises on their bodies and all had their lives spared thanks to intervention by the police.

Without entering into details of the conflict among opposing groups within the party, JED also stated in its letter to Gizenga that, "the attacks on these media professionals reveal a state of mind in the party that now considers the press as a scapegoat for the government's failures and journalists as bêtes noires."

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