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Provincial governor accuses Radio Okapi journalist of collusion with rebels

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

Provincial governor accuses Radio Okapi journalist of collusion with rebels

In a 2 December 2008 letter to Minister of the Interior and Public Safety Celestin Mbuyu, JED expressed deep concern over the various threats and stigmatisation directed at the Goma-based Radio Okapi, and particularly at Gisèle Kaj, a journalist and news desk editor for the radio station, by provincial governor Julien Paluku.

JED further warned that if any misfortune should befall Ms Kaj, it would not hesitate to consider the North-Kivu governor the primary suspect. JED asked Mbuyu, whose ministry has jurisdiction over the province and its governor, to ask Mr. Paluku "to put an end to his activities and respect journalists' work, whatever their editorial line."

According to various witness accounts that were confirmed by Radio Okapi and Kaj herself, on 18 October Paluku told the Goma head of the United Nations Mission in the Congo (MONUC) that he "resented" Kaj because her reporting was biased and that she had "contacts among Laurent Nkunda's Congrès national pour la défense du peuple (CNDP)."

Furthermore, after a 30 November press conference held at his Goma residence and attended by Radio Okapi's Jules Ngala, the governor attacked the station in front of witnesses, calling it "negative". He again accused Kaj of "not doing her job properly" and of not being "patriotic" because she broadcast an interview with CNDP spokesperson Bertrand Bisimwa. Similar remarks were later repeated by the governor's aides and personal guards. On one occasion, a group of police officers charged with guarding Paluku were heard to allege that Kaj was "in cahoots" with the rebels and that she was Nkunda's "mistress".

JED believes that such stigmatizations of the media, and particularly the remarks made about Kaj, amount to an incitement to murder, especially as the comments come from the mouth of the highest authority in the province. JED further reminds the governor that if he is not in agreement with information broadcast by Radio Okapi, he has the right to request rectification under the media law of 22 June 1995.

The latest threats come a week after Radio Okapi journalist Didace Namujimbo was shot dead in Bukavu by unknown gunmen.

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