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Radio Okapi journalist target of brutal attack in Lubumbashi

(JED/IFEX) - In an 11 August 2009 letter to the Special Representative of the Secretary-General of the United Nations in the DRC and Head of the UN Mission in the Congo (MONUC), Alan Doss, JED called special attention to the brutal attack by security forces agents on a Radio Okapi journalist on 7 August in Lubumbashi. JED called on Doss to use his office to end the threats and attacks on media workers and other human rights defenders targeted for their work.

According to the victim, eyewitness accounts and other information obtained by JED, Paulin Munanga, a provincial correspondent for Radio Okapi based in Lubumbashi, was brutally beaten by security forces agents (Agence Nationale des Renseignements, ANR) on 7 August while he was covering a demonstration by human rights activists near the provincial government offices in Katanga. His tape recorder was confiscated in the attack but returned to him the next day by the provincial director of the ANR, Dede Kaseka, after local authorities with the MONUC and the Katanga governor intervened.

Munanga told JED he emerged from the attack badly bruised and suffering from severe pain in his right shoulder. "I am only alive today thanks to the protestors who came to my aid," he said.

JED recalled in the letter that only a few weeks ago, Radio Okapi journalists in Kinshasa received anonymous death threats following a live telephone call-in show. The callers reminded the journalists of their colleagues killed in the eastern part of the country.

JED notes that since the resumption of fighting in the east and the emergence of certain tense zones in the region, it has become increasingly difficult for independent journalists to carry out their work freely without fear of attack from anyone holding even a modest position of authority and citing national security concerns or fears of military efforts being undermined.

In such conditions, free expression is more threatened than ever and journalists are in very real danger.

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