New York, July 5, 2006 — The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the expulsion of Radio France Internationale (RFI) correspondent Ghislaine Dupont from the Democratic Republic of Congo where a landmark general election is scheduled for July 30.
Dupont, who had been in the capital Kinshasa with a valid visa since April trying to obtain media accreditation, told CPJ that she was offered no written explanation for her expulsion. On July 3, she was fingerprinted and photographed by police who escorted her to the airport.
"Treating journalists like criminals is outrageous and sends all the wrong signals about the government's commitment to press freedom in the run-up to these historic polls," said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. "We appeal to President Joseph Kabila to ensure that all journalists can go about their work without fear of reprisal."
Campaigning is now under way for presidential and parliamentary elections, the first democratic polls since independence in 1960.
Congolese press freedom group Journaliste en Danger (JED) called Dupont's expulsion a "shameful and scandalous end to a months-long standoff between RFI and the Congolese government, which indicates the desire of certain Congolese authorities to get rid of a journalist who irritates them because of her professionalism and independence." Dupont is known for her well informed and critical coverage of the DRC.
Several sources told CPJ in May that Information Minister Henri Mova Sakanyi had pressured RFI to withdraw Dupont, while offering to accredit other RFI correspondents. At that time, Mova told CPJ in a phone interview that Dupont's accreditation was being withheld because of alleged violations of accreditation rules and not due to the content of her work, but confirmed he had met with RFI management in Paris to complain about her. For more information, see CPJ's May 31 alert:
In a statement on its Web site July 4, RFI protested the decision, saying that Dupont had a visa to work as a journalist and had been accredited by the United Nations mission in the DRC. "In accordance with rules respected by all independent media, RFI's management considers that it has sole jurisdiction over the choice of its correspondents," the statement added.