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AFEX condemns arrest of journalists covering civil society event in DRC

The African Freedom of Expression Exchange (AFEX) is deeply appalled by recent acts of harassment and intimidation of journalists by Government authorities in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). In particular, AFEX condemns the arrest and detention on March 15 of Erick Izami, a journalist with Antenne A, a private Congolese radio station.

Erick was arrested by the National Intelligence Agency (ANR) and detained for more two days without charge, contrary to Law, and was released on the evening of March 17. He was arrested while covering the launch of a new civil society group in Kinshasa. Three other journalists from the international press - an AFP photographer, a correspondent for the Belgian Radio and Television (RTBF) and a BBC cameraman - were also arrested alongside Erick and taken to the premises of the ANR where they were held for several hours before being released. Their mobile phones were, however, confiscated.

The journalists were covering an exchange meeting organised by human rights activists from the DRC, Senegal and Burkina Faso. Several human rights activists were also arrested, among them members of the Congolese Filimbi Movement, a representative of the Balais Citoyen Movement, Oscibi Johann of Burkina Faso and the co-ordinator of the movement Y en Marre of Senegal, Fadel Barro.

AFEX wishes to remind the Congolese Government that detaining people, in this instance, journalists, for more than 24 hours is illegal. Furthermore, it is an unacceptable violation of its obligations under international human rights law to obstruct the work of media professionals and to prevent them from performing their legitimate duties.

Reacting to these developments, the Chair of the AFEX Steering Committee, Ms Zoe Titus, who is also the Regional Director of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA), said: “The Congolese Government must make a determined effort towards guaranteeing freedom of expression, including media freedom, and freedom of association and assembly in line with the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights in the country. This is a fundamental prerequisite in any democracy.”

AFEX accuses the Congolese authorities of a systematic assault on freedom of expression, given its recent acts of censorship and intimidation against the media.

AFEX, therefore, demands an immediate end to the frequent attacks on the media, including the arbitrary arrests and detention of journalists, as well as other forms of human rights violations.

ABOUT AFEX

AFEX is a continental network of the most prominent African freedom of expression organisations who are also members of the International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX), the global network of free expression organisations. The network is currently made up of nine organisations based in West, East, Central and Southern Africa. AFEX works to increase the effectiveness of its members and to enhance the impact of their work in addressing freedom of expression challenges in Africa.

Learn more about AFEX and its members by visiting www.africafex.org

Africa Freedom of Information Centre
Center for Media Studies & Peace Building
Human Rights Network for Journalists - Uganda
Journaliste en danger
Media Foundation for West Africa
Media Institute of Southern Africa
Media Rights Agenda
National Union of Somali Journalists
West African Journalists Association

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