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Attacks on the Press in 1998 - Congo

Publisher Committee to Protect Journalists
Publication Date February 1999
Cite as Committee to Protect Journalists, Attacks on the Press in 1998 - Congo, February 1999, available at: [accessed 23 November 2017]
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.

As of December 31, 1998

Ongoing fighting between numerous ethnic-based militias such as the Cobras, which support head of state Denis Sassou-Nguesso, and the Zoulous, loyal to ousted President Pascal Lissouba, has terrorized civilians and claimed thousands of lives. Among the casualties this year was Fabien Fortune Bitoumbo, a correspondent for the state-owned Radio Liberté. Bitoumbo was accompanying the minister of mining and industry on a trip to an area controlled by the Ninja militia group, which is loyal to Bernard Kolelas, a former prime minister and sometime Lissouba ally, when the entourage was taken hostage. On August 29, Ninja members executed Bitoumbo, solely because he was a journalist, shooting him at point-blank range.

The media are required to "show loyalty to the government" by order of a 1995 statute, which allows the seizure of printing presses during political emergencies. A 1996 press law requires the independent press to obtain commercial licenses and imposes exorbitant penalties for slander and defamation. The state retains control of electronic media with the exception of one radio station operated by Sasssou-Nguesso's political allies.

Journalists practice self-censorship in this treacherous environment, knowing they are potential targets of all the warring militia factions. In September, uniformed men raided the offices of the independent magazine La Rue Meurt and seized its computers. At year's end, as gun battles flared between the Ninja and Cobra militias in Brazzaville, many independent newspapers permanently ceased publishing.

Attacks on the Press in Congo in 1998

9/5/98La Rue MeurtHarassed
8/29/98Fabien Fortune Bitoumbo, Radio Liberte, La Rue MuertKilled
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