CPJ concerned about safety of journalists

Your Excellencies,

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is deeply concerned about the safety of journalists working in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), an area currently under the control of your Congolese Rally For Democracy (RCD-Goma) movement. Recently, one journalist was attacked and another was detained in reprisal for their work.

On Friday, May 2, in Kindu, Maniema Province, RCD soldiers detained and brutally assaulted Dieudonné Muzaliwa Bulambo, a journalist for Congolese National Radio-Television (RTNC), whose outlets in eastern DRC are controlled by the RCD. Congolese sources said the attack came after Bulambo conducted an on-air interview with Gen. Moutanga Diallo, head of the United Nations Mission in the DRC. During the broadcast, Bulambo raised the issue of the presence of Rwandan troops in Maniema. Rwanda’s support of the RCD has been a contentious issue in the ongoing efforts to negotiate peace in the country.

Bulambo was later admitted to a Kindu hospital for treatment. The Kinshasa-based press freedom group Journaliste En Danger (JED) reported that RTNC officials subsequently fired Bulambo.

On Wednesday, May 28, RCD agents in Bukavu, South Kivu Province, arrested Joseph Nkinzo, director of the local Anglican community radio station Sauti ya Rehema (Voice of Mercy). The station had earlier broadcast commentary on the RCD’s decision to withdraw from negotiations to establish a national transitional, multiparty government. (The RCD has since rejoined the talks). Journalists in Kinshasa told CPJ that Jean-Pierre Lola Kisanga, an RCD spokesperson, claimed that the station had violated RCD media guidelines by broadcasting political content even though it was only allowed to air programs about religion and development.

Nkinzo was released from custody the next day. RCD authorities in Bukavu said Sauti ya Rehema would be allowed to continue broadcasting only on the conditions that it air news bulletins from the RCD-controlled RTNC station, and that it cease all political programming and broadcast only religious content. According to JED, who spoke with Nkinzo after his release, though the station continues to broadcast, its management has gone into hiding after refusing to accept the RCD’s demands.

The attacks on these journalists follow the RCD’s December 2002 closure of Radio Maendeleo, a Bukavu-based community radio station run by local nongovernmental organizations. After the station aired a call-in show in which callers criticized the RCD’s new tax regime, RCD authorities claimed the station had violated the terms of its license by broadcasting political content. Radio Maendeleo remains closed.

The U.N. Integrated Regional Information Service news agency quoted Kisanga, the RCD spokesperson, as saying, “If Joesph Nkinzo does not change his ways, he will suffer the same fate as Radio Maendeleo.”

As an organization of journalists dedicated to defending the rights of our colleagues worldwide, we strongly condemn the attack on Dieudonné Bulambo, the detention of Joseph Nkinzo, and the closure of Radio Maendeleo. These acts are clearly aimed at stifling critical reporting on issues of legitimate public concern.

In April, the RCD signed peace accords and accepted the transitional national constitution, which obligates all parties to respect press freedom. In light of this responsibility, we call on you to allow Radio Maendeleo to reopen immediately, to cease harassing journalists in reprisal for their work, and to allow the press to report freely on political matters of public concern.

We thank you for your attention in this matter. We await your reply.


Ann Cooper
Executive Director