JED is sounding the alarm: 64 attacks against the press since the late elections
Kinshasa, 2 May 2012. On the celebration of the World Day of press freedom, on Thursday 3 May 2012, while the Democratic Republic of Congo is setting up its new institutions resulting from the 28 November presidential and legislative elections, Journaliste en Danger (JED) draws the attention about the deterioration of press freedom in the DRC since the end of elections. JED urges the new authorities to exert for the end of attacks against media professionals.
Four months after the elections that drove the country into a deep political crisis, the finding that emerges is that journalists and media have been the target of several attacks and other threats to restrict their freedom of expression and Information.
Since early this year, JED has documented 64 different cases of press freedom abuses throughout the country. These violations are categorized as follows:
- 01 Journalist arrested and jailed in Bas-Congo
- 21 journalists arrested by various security and intelligence services
- 05 cases of aggression against journalists for their work
- 04 cases of anonymous or direct threat against journalists
- 04 cases of judicial or administrative pressure on journalists or media outlets
- 29 cases of censorship or obstruction on the work of journalists
During the equivalent period of 03 May 2011, JED had identified 35 cases of attack or interference with the freedom of the press. By comparing the two periods, 2011 and 2012, there is a positive difference of 29 cases; it is obvious that the situation of press freedom has deteriorated by 83%.
Analysis of these figures indicates a significant increase in cases of censorship or interference with journalists (20) and in cases of arrest of journalists for their work (11).
This deterioration of the climate of press freedom mostly resulted from the political crisis that has settled in the country after the last presidential and legislative elections whereof President Joseph Kabila was proclaimed the winner, while his main challenger, Etienne Tshisekedi, rejected the results and self-proclaimed the President of Republic.
Since then, the journalists seemed to be caught in the midst of this political imbroglio. As an illustration of these violations of the right to inform and to be informed, here are some prominent cases:
• The interruption in the signal of Radio France Internationale (RFI) for 10 days from 31 December 2011 to 09 January 2012, on Mr. Lambert Mende’s orders, Minister of Communication and Media. The Kinshasa government had improperly digested the "juxtaposition" of the wishes message of Mr. Etienne Tshisekedi (self-proclaimed president) with the one of President Joseph Kabila declared elected after the disputed presidential 28 November 2011.
• Radio Communautaire du Katanga (RCK), a station in Lubumbashi, capital of Katanga province, saw its signal cut off, on Thursday 5 January 2012, for six days on Mr. Munkanya Ilunga’s orders, head of provincial communication section. RCK was accused of relaying RFI’s programmes, however, banned by the authorities in Kinshasa.
• The systematic questioning of all national and international journalists and correspondents who dared to do their work in the perimeter of Mr. Tshisekedi’s home where a kind of blockade was imposed.
• The abrupt signal cut-off in three TV channels, namely Radio Télévision Catholique Elikya (RTCE), Canal Congo Télévision (CCTV) and Canal Kin Télévision (CKTV), on the eve of the march of Christians planned on 16 February 2012, accused of making propaganda of the march.
• The letter from the Minister of Justice sent to the Censor Board and prohibiting the screening of the documentary film of the Belgian journalist Thierry Michel on "The case of Chebeya".
Given this hostile climate in the work of the press, JED reiterated its calls upon the new government to stop all acts restricting freedom of expression. JED calls especially on the new institutions of the Republic to quickly initiate law drafts to improve the legal framework for the practice of press freedom.