Press freedom group threatened

New York, April 11, 2005—The Committee to Protect Journalists is concerned for the safety of members of Journaliste en Danger (JED), a press freedom organization based in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). On April 4, JED Secretary-General Tshivis Tshivuadi received an email containing death threats against him and Donat M’baya Tshimanga, JED’s president, and their families.

According to local sources, the threat came one day after Tshivuadi gave an interview to Radio France Internationale (RFI) in which he alleged that politicians in the DRC were seeking to control local broadcasters during the preparations for general elections, currently scheduled for June.

The first sentence of the email received by Tshivuadi reads “Since you and your friend M’baya continue to betray the nation by your false campaigns against the DRC… we would like to inform you that the hour of repentance is near.” It also threatened to hold the journalists’ families responsible for “all the evil that you have caused the nation.”

“We will see how RFI, the Americans, or your friend Menard [Reporters without Borders secretary-general Robert Menard] will save you,” the email continued and was signed “commander Mbonge Munene” which, translated, means “violent wind.”

Tshivuadi and M’baya believe that this latest threat may be part of a pattern of intimidation against their organization. Over the past year, they have been maligned by both a talk show host on the public broadcaster, RTNC, and targeted by the private, Kinshasa-based newspaper Le Grognon. In a piece titled “Is JED Endangering the Congo?” Le Grogon excoriated JED’s efforts to stop the harassment of 11 local journalists who had interviewed Rwandan authorities regarding the armed conflict in eastern DRC.

“CPJ is deeply troubled by these threats directed at our colleagues Tshivis Tshivuadi and Donat M’baya Tshimanga,,” said CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper. “We call on Congolese authorities to ensure that these threats are thoroughly investigated, allowing these defenders of press freedom to carry out their work during this crucial pre-election period.”

To read more about JED, read CPJ’s 2004 special report on the DRC.