French radio reporter denied accreditation in run-up to election

New York, May 31, 2006—Congolese authorities are refusing to accredit Radio France Internationale’s Ghislaine Dupont to cover July elections, despite the fact that she obtained a visa and has been in the country for five weeks, according to RFI Africa Director Henri Perilhou. Information Minister Henri Mova Sakanyi has pressured RFI to withdraw Dupont, who is known for her critical and well-informed coverage of the DRC, several sources said.

“It is not up to Congolese politicians to decide who should cover the elections for RFI,” said Ann Cooper, executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists. “We urge President Joseph Kabila to ensure that Dupont is granted accreditation immediately and that all media accreditations for these historic elections are delivered in a fair and transparent way.”

On July 30, voters in DRC will choose a president and members of parliament in the first democratic elections since independence in 1960.

In a statement on Friday, RFI appealed to Congolese authorities and the country’s transitional institutions to resolve the accreditation problem, which it said was “not in line with normal practice in terms of press freedom.” RFI has six FM transmitters across the DRC and is the leading international radio station there, the statement said. “The absence of RFI journalists during a particularly important period of the country’s history would leave a serious gap,” the statement concluded.

In a telephone interview today, Mova told CPJ that Dupont’s accreditation was withheld because of alleged violations of accreditation rules and not due to the content of her work. He told Agence France-Presse that RFI would be the “best represented radio station” for the elections and said his government had accredited four of RFI’s Paris-based journalists and three local correspondents. RFI sources said the station has only one accredited local correspondent covering political affairs, and one covering sports.

Mova went as far as meeting with RFI management in Paris to complain about Dupont, the minister confirmed today. CPJ sources said Mova pressed RFI for her withdrawal in return for accrediting other journalists

The local press freedom group Journaliste en Danger (JED) said on Saturday that the government had no legal basis to limit the number of special envoys or local correspondents for international media.

CPJ last week expressed alarm at an increasing number of attacks on the press in DRC in the run-up to the elections. For further information, see CPJ’s May 23 alert.