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Congolese government bans documentary about surgeon who treats rape victims

Congolese gynaecologist Denis Mukwege delivers a speech during an award ceremony in Strasbourg, 26 November 2014
Congolese gynaecologist Denis Mukwege delivers a speech during an award ceremony in Strasbourg, 26 November 2014

REUTERS/Vincent Kessler

This statement was originally published on rsf.org on 4 September 2015.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and Journalist in Danger (JED) condemn the government's decision to “categorically ban” a documentary about Denis Mukwege, a Congolese surgeon specializing in treating women who have been raped in the course of years of fighting in the eastern province of Sud-Kivu.

Information minister Lambert Mendé insists that the Congolese armed forces are “defamed” by "The Man Who Mends Women,” which was made by Thierry Michel, a Belgian filmmaker, and Colette Braeckman, a Belgian journalist who has specialized in central Africa.

Mendé nonetheless recently gave Michel and Braeckman assurances that the film would be able to be shown in the DRC.

“The Congolese government's behaviour is outrageous and is indicative of its narrow-mindedness,” said Clea Kahn-Sriber, the head of RSF's Africa desk.

“How can this government deny the reality of the violence that has caused suffering to thousands of Congolese men and women during nearly 20 years of war in the east? How can this government deny the public's fundamental right to have access to information and know their country's history?”

JED secretary-general Tshivis Tshivuadi added: “No law provides a basis for this ban, which is completely arbitrary. And if the armed forces have filed a defamation suit, show it to us! Even if there were a lawsuit, how could it justify this act of outright censorship? This archaic ban is an embarrassment for the DRC in the new technology era.”

RSF and JED call on the information minister to lift his ban, even if his attempted censorship just increases the public's interest in the film.

The European Parliament's decision to award the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought to Dr. Mukwege in November 2014 was celebrated in an enormous billboard announcement on Kinshasa's Boulevard du 30 Juin.

But Mukwege was the target of murder attempts in 2012 and earlier this year and, according to a statement released by Michel, he is now holed up in his hospital and can only leave if protected by an escort of UN peacekeepers.

Michel's film has received a total of seven international awards in five countries on three continents.

The DRC is ranked 150th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2015 press freedom index. Of late, the government has distinguished itself by its failure to hold elections on time and its repressive attitude towards the media.

Journaliste en danger
Reporters Without Borders

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