Open letter to President Kabila about steadily worsening climate for journalists
|Publisher||Reporters Without Borders|
|Publication Date||30 August 2010|
|Cite as||Reporters Without Borders, Open letter to President Kabila about steadily worsening climate for journalists, 30 August 2010, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4c7cbb5e1a.html [accessed 20 May 2013]|
|Disclaimer||This 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.|
Reporters Without Borders and Journalist in Danger (JED), its local partner organisation, wrote to President Joseph Kabila today to condemn the steady decline in the climate for journalists and the reduction in the space for free expression in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The two organisations, which are particularly worried about Jullson Eninga, a journalist who is facing a possible 20-year jail sentence or even the death penalty on a charge of treason, urged President Kabila to undertake courageous and major reforms to promote press freedom and improve the climate before next year's presidential election. This is the text of the letter:
President Joseph Kabila
Democratic Republic of Congo
Paris and Kinshasa, 30 August 2010
Dear President Kabila,
Reporters Without Borders and Journalist in Danger (JED), its local partner organisation, would again like to draw your attention to the steady decline in the climate for journalists and the reduction in the space for free expression in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Our two organisations already sounded the alarm on the 50th anniversary of the RDC's independence on 30 June, referring to several cases of murders of journalists, the frequent arrests and threats against media personnel, and the foreign media's difficulties in working properly.
Nothing has been done to improve the situation in the two months since then. Our organisations have even registered ten more deliberate attacks on journalists and media in the past two months, attacks that could foreshadow even greater repression in the run-up to next year's elections if preventive measures are not adopted.
Here are some examples:
1. Michel Tshiyoyo, a cameraman working for Radio Télévision Amazone (RTA) a station based in Kananga, the capital of Kasaï-Occidental province, was given an emergency evacuation to Kinshasa by the UN Stabilisation Mission in Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO) on 17 August, shortly after receiving SMS threats from individuals allegedly close to the province's governor, Trésor Kapuku. His only crime was to have witnessed clashes a few days before between the governor and his men, on the one hand. and the population of the village of Lwandanda, 25 km from Kananga. Even after being evacuated, he continued to receive threats, including one coming from the telephone number 0812221172, warning that "murder is common in Kinshasa" and recalling the "fate of Chebeya." Is it necessary to point out that it is the prevailing sense of impunity that permits this kind of brazenness?
2. Pascal Mulunda, the editor of the privately-owned weekly Le Monitor, has just been released after spending 24 days in prison and having to pay 600 dollars in unjustified bail amounts. He was arrested on 27 July and placed in pre-trial detention in Kinshasa prison as a result of a libel action brought by Baudouin Iheta, the coordinator of the Small-Scale Mining Technical Assistance and Training Service (SAESSCAM), over a 23 June article accusing Iheta of mismanagement and embezzlement. He was released conditionally on 19 August. According to his lawyer, he has to present himself before a judge every Tuesday and Friday and is banned from leaving the capital.
Is it also necessary to point out that the DRC continues to be a country where journalists are systematically jailed on defamation charges and the defamation legislation does not even require verifying the facts of a case?
3. Jullson Eninga, the editor of the daily Le Journal, has been held in the Kinshasa Penitentiary and Re-education Centre (CPRK) for the past five months without being given any chance to avail himself of the presumption of innocence. Initially accused of "propaganda on behalf of a rebellion," a crime that does not exist under the DRC's legislation, he is currently being tried before a Kinshasa high court on a treason charge, which carries a possible 20-year jail sentence or the death penalty. This is because, in June 2009, he published a communiqué by the Hutu rebels of the Rwanda Democratic Liberation Forces (FDLR), who operate in the eastern DRC. The communiqué was taken from the Africatime.com website.
Eninga insists on his innocence, explaining that the publication of the communiqué was a mistake by the newspaper for which he has formally apologised. Le Journal has nonetheless remained closed for the past year at the behest of the communication ministry, which is also behind the prosecution. Everything points to a deliberate desire to hound and gag the independent press.
4. The transmission signals for Canal Kin Télévision(CKTV), Canal Congo Télévision(CCTV) and Radio Liberté Kinshasa (Ralik) - three opposition stations owned by Jean-Pierre Bemba - were all cut on 26 July. According to our information, a group of armed men stormed into the complex that houses the transmitters and ordered technicians to cut off their broadcasts. No official explanation was given to the three stations, which were able to resume normal broadcasting two days later.
5. Several soldiers stormed into Moto Oïcha, a radio station based in Oïcha, near Béni (in the eastern province of Nord-Kivu), on 28 July and asked to speak to a presenter. As he was absent, the solders beat the technician who was there, and then searched the building. Fearing for his safety, the presenter has been in hiding ever since. A few days before this incident, the station's news editor had received anonymous telephone threats.
All these press freedom violations are indicative of the difficulties that Congolese journalists are encountering in the course of trying to work without being exposed to threats and risks. This is the case both in the capital and the provinces, especially the eastern provinces.
We have for years been calling on your government to take measures to provide journalists with more security, to guarantee a better climate for free expression and to ombat impunity for murders of journalists. Shortly after Didace Namujimbo's murder in Bukavu in November 2008, for example, we urged you to create a special judicial commission to shed light on the murders of journalists, but you took no action.
The need is now more urgent than ever for you to undertake such courageous and major reforms to promote press freedom in the DRC. It would allow you to respond to the current problems as well as to prepare for next year, bearing in mind that the country's journalists are likely to encounter new problems linked to the campaign for the 2011 presidential election.
We very much hope you will take account of these requests.
Jean-François Julliard, Secretary-General of Reporters Without Borders
Donat M'Baya Tshimanga, President of Journalist in Danger
Picture : President Joseph Kabila (AFP)