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Spate of attacks, arrests, creates climate of fear for journalists in DRC

Residents read newspapers in Kinshasa, on 29 July 2006
Residents read newspapers in Kinshasa, on 29 July 2006

AP Photo/Jerome Delay

This article was originally published in French on jed-afrique.org on 6 November 2015.

Barely a week after having published its annual report calling for the Congolese authorities to put an end to impunity for attacks on the press, Journaliste en danger (JED) has registered four cases of flagrant attacks against journalists. JED holds the government of Prime Minister Matata Ponyo responsible for the insecurity in which journalists live, and denounces a policy of intimidation aimed at silencing dissenting voices.

According to details received by JED, in less than a week, a series of attacks and acts of censorship were committed against journalists and the media by security forces and intelligence agencies in several parts of the country. These were, in no particular order:

1. On 6 November 2015, Clément Ngoyi, a journalist at Wantashi Télévision (a station broadcasting from Lubumbashi, capital of the province of Haut-Katanga, Southeastern Democratic Republic of the Congo) was brutally beaten up by a group of individuals under the orders of Mr. Faustin Bokonda. Mr. Bokonda is a member of the National Assembly and candidate for President of Lupopo, a football club in Lubumbashi.

Mr. Bokonda invited the journalist twice to join him at a local hotel apartment for the shooting of a sports program called "Analyse sport". When he showed up at the appointed place, Clément Ngoyi was violently taken aside before being assaulted, in Mr. Bokonda's presence.

2. Bel Beya, an independent journalist in Kolwezi, the capital of the province of Lualaba in the southeast of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, was arrested on 6 November 2015, at approximately 7:00 a.m. Beya's arrest, conducted by a group of members of the Republican Guard, was made for having filmed children in the Kolwezi train station who partook in crafting objects for resale with discarded copper near the train tracks. The journalist was held in captivity at the Republican Guard detention center before being transferred to the National Intelligence Agency facilities, where he continues to be detained.

3. The facilities of Radio Liberty, a broadcasting station in Lisala (the capital of the province of Mongala, Northwest DRC) were attacked, and the radio station was shut down on the evening of 3 November 2015, by a group of Congolese National Police agents which raided the facilities while a journalist was hosting his show, entitled "The Deputy's Voice." After threatening the journalists present, these agents ordered the journalists to hand over control of the media facilities before sealing the doors.

The following day, Radio Liberty in Lisala allotted airtime to two national deputies who aired their criticisms of the special commissioners named by the Congolese Chief of State to govern the new provinces. Over the course of the show, these deputies denounced a constitutional coup d'état and various maneuvers by authorities designed to avoid organizing elections within the timespan set forth in the constitution.

4. In Kinshasa, a journalist has been held in custody at the Makala Central Prison for more than a week. He is Mambo Zampe, director of the newspaper "La Signature", who was prosecuted with "undermining and damaging allegations" against Mr. Ilunga, former deputy CEO of Services des Entreprises Pétrolières (SEP/Congo).

The journalist was arrested on 29 October 2015, by judicial security officers of the Parquet de Grande Instance of Kinshasa/Gombe when he responded to a summons concerning an article published in his newspaper on 7 January, entitled: "SEP Congo is bleeding to death: US$36,000,000 evaporated". Detained in the Parquet's jail cell, Mambo Zampe was transferred to Makala Central Prison on 30 October 2015.

5. Detained illegally for 20 days in a cell at the Unvira military intelligence services in the province of South Kivu (eastern DRC) where he was on a service mission, a Burundian journalist working for Radio Publique Africaine (RPA), Egide Mwemero, was transferred on 1 November 2015, to Bukavu, the capital of the province of South Kivu, before being left on Tuesday November 3 2015 in Kinshasa where he is being kept in a secret location.

Egide Mwemero was arrested on 13 October 2015, while he was working with two Congolese journalists at the Le Messager du Peuple radio station, in the city of Uvira. The military intelligence services "Sokola 2 operational sector" accuses him of being an accomplice of "a network that would destabilize Bujumbura, the capital of Burundi".

Journaliste en danger (JED) asks immediately that the Congolese authorities in charge of justice and security launch an urgent call for appeasement, and to order the liberation of all detained journalists and the reopening of all media organizations arbitrarily closed.

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