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Attacks on the Press in 1996 - Zaire

Publisher Committee to Protect Journalists
Publication Date February 1997
Cite as Committee to Protect Journalists, Attacks on the Press in 1996 - Zaire, February 1997, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/47c56521c.html [accessed 25 October 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Despite guarantees for freedom of expression in Zaire's constitution and the 1993 Transition Act, agents of President Mobutu Sese Seko's Special Presidential Division (DSP) and the Military Action and Intelligence Service (SARM) continue to intimidate, harass, detain, torture, and inflict grave human rights abuses on journalists and media officials. Harassment of the press has escalated, and the lack of protections for journalists combined with a weak, ineffectual judiciary provides journalists accused of press law violations with little legal recourse.

The government has used charges of sedition, disseminating false information, and jeopardizing national security to silence the press. Newspaper publishers are required to deposit copies of each issue with the ministry of information prior to publication, effectively promoting self-censorship among reporters and facilitating government censorship of unfavorable coverage. Foreign journalists who investigated charges that Zairean troops were pillaging Rwandan refugees camps were either deported or barred from leaving the country.

Newspaper circulation is limited to Kinshasa and a few other large cities, the result of a severely dilapidated infrastructure and a failing economy. Radio is the most effective means of communicating with the citizenry. Private radio stations, most of which carry Christian programs, have started broadcasting since the transition. The state has promised to fix non-functioning transmitters and increase the transmission power of government-owned radio and television in preparation for the national elections, but it remains to be seen whether opposition parties will be granted access to the state-owned media stations. A second state television station, Tele Zaire 2, was installed to broadcast cultural programs.

A constitutional referendum has been postponed to Feb. 1997, and elections that were originally scheduled for July 1995 have again been postponed, to May 1997. Despite plans to move toward a democratically elected government in the coming year, the outlook for local journalists remains bleak without an independent judiciary and an accountable internal security and police force.

February 15
Jane Standley, BBC, EXPELLED
BBC crew, HARASSED

Nairobi-based correspondent Standley was expelled from Zaire at the border town of Goma because of her coverage of relief workers' charges that Zairean troops were pillaging the Kibumba camp for Rwandan refugees. The expulsion was ordered by Zairean Interior Minister Gustave Malumba Mbangula, who claimed the workers' charges were "full of lies and damaged the dignity and security of the Zairean State." In a related incident, a BBC television crew in Goma was blocked from leaving the country by Zairean intelligence officials, who confiscated their passports.

May 23
Adrien de Mun, Free-lancer, HARASSED, EXPELLED

De Mun, a French free-lance journalist based in Rwanda and working for Radio France Internationale and several other international radio networks, was detained on unspecified charges in the Goma region of Zaire, then transferred to Kinshasa. The arrest followed the Zairean government's ban on journalists crossing into Zaire from neighboring countries. De Mun was accused of working illegally in Zaire and expelled on May 29.

September 17
Michel Luya, Le Palmares, IMPRISONED
Le Palmares, CENSORED

Luya, publisher of the opposition newspaper Le Palmares, was arrested at his home in connection with an article published by his newspaper. The article cited a Swiss source who claimed President Mobutu Sese Seko, who had gone to Europe for medical treatment, would be "operated on for throat cancer after undergoing a surgery on his prostate." Minister of Information and the Press Boguo Makeli said that revealing information about Mobutu's health was an affront to the president of the republic, whose inviolability is constitutionally guaranteed. Luya faces up to 12 months' imprisonment. On Sept. 18, Makeli ordered Le Palmares suspended indefinitely.

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