IFEX has raised alarm bells to President Joseph Kabila of the Democratic Republic of Congo about the safety of staff at its own member group Journaliste en danger (JED). Late last month, Donat M'Baya Tshimanga, president of JED, and secretary-general Tshivis Tshivuadi, received death threats in an email from what looks to be a supporter of the ruling party, warning that they should be ready for the "final battle." The intimidation is a sign of what's to come in the run-up to the presidential elections on 28 November, says IFEX.
The threats came after the journalists organised a march on parliament to protest against the alleged treatment of a journalist colleague by a member of Kabila's party.
According to Reporters Without Borders (RSF), the email read:
Mr. Mbaya and Tshivuadi,
We are aware that you are paid to smear our country in the eyes of our partners. You will soon pay for this. You and your families.
You just wait.
You are also destroying the careers of politicians in the government.
We know you get money from the opposition in order to combat the government.
You were paid 50,000 dollars to combat the young parliamentarian Kisombe.
Be ready for the final battle.
A word to the wise...
There is no evidence to back up the claims in the letter targeting JED.
IFEX called on Kabila to protect JED staff as well as journalists. "As we are sure you are aware M. Le President, the role of the media to report on the activities of elected government officials must be protected and is an indication of the health of any democratic society. As the country prepares for the general elections, we urge you to ensure that JED is able to work freely and without fear from harassment or persecution as they perform their crucial role," wrote IFEX in the letter.
The threats form part of a "noticeable rise" in attacks against the media and civil society ahead of the November elections, says JED.
On 6 September, the premises of a private television station in the capital, Kinshasa, was set on fire and destroyed, report JED and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).
Men were seen in the early hours throwing tear gas, Molotov cocktails and grenades into the studios of Radio Lisanga Télévision. Two employees managed to escape after climbing on to the roof.
The station is noted for airing programmes favourable to the opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi, and witnesses claim one of the assailants was a member of the youth league of Kabila's ruling People's Party for Reconstruction and Democracy.
The attack followed the ransacking of the party's headquarters, which Kabila supporters blamed on members of Tshisekedi's Union for Democracy and Social Progress party.