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Monday, 05 September 2011

Media Under Threat in DRC

Press Freedom Group Members Threatened after Protest March 

By: Naomi Hunt

President of Congo Joseph Kabila, pictured on October 24, 2010. Kabila will stand for re-election in November 2011. On 26 August, journalists in the DRC marched in Kinshasa in protest of the abuse hurled at a fellow journalist by MP Yves Kisombe, who is reportedly close to the Parliamentary Majority of President Kabila. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

VIENNA, 5 Sept. 2011 - IPI is alarmed to learn that Journalistes en Danger (JED) President Donat M'Baya Tshimanga and JED Secretary-General Tshivis Tshivuadi have received death threats in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in connection with their press freedom work. 

According to Reporters without Borders, Tshivuadi and Tshimanga received an Email at around 2 pm on 26 August threatening their families, accusing them of receiving money to smear an MP who allegedly insulted and threatened a female journalist, and warning that they should be ready for the “final battle”.

The threats came after journalists participated in a march on parliament in the DRC capital, Kinshasa, organized by JED and other civil society groups, to protest against the alleged treatment of a journalist colleague by MP Yves Kisombe of President Laurent Kabila’s political party, reports said.

RSF and JED noted that there was no evidence that the Email threats had come from Kisombe.

So far there has been no official reaction to the death threats against the JED officials. Tshivuadi told IPI he didn’t expect much action, because this was not the first time there had been threats, and so far there had never been a response.

“We are deeply disturbed by these threats against journalists, especially as presidential elections are approaching,” said IPI Director Alison Bethel McKenzie. “The threats should be investigated and the perpetrator or perpetrators found. We salute the solidarity that DRC media have shown with their fellow journalists, and urge the authorities to respect journalists safety and press freedom.”

RSTV1 reporter Eugénie Ntumba had called Kisombe in early August to ask whether he would support a petition calling for free elections, but was allegedly verbally abused by him, reports said. Kisombe later allegedly came to the station and threatened to rape Ntumba, reports said.

In response, the journalist community in DRC agreed to a six-month black-out on media coverage of Kisombe, Tshivuadi told IPI. During last Friday’s march, the journalists presented a memo to the president of the national assembly, highlighting recent attacks on journalists and calling for Kisombe’s removal from parliament.

Tshivis told IPI that, following the demonstration, JED was contacted by Kisombe who apologised and asked that the press coverage embargo be lifted, which civil society organizations and media have yet to respond to.

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