Mob threatens photographer covering pre-election riot

New York, July 28, 2006—Journalist Emmanuel Makila was surrounded by rioters and threatened with death after an election rally by presidential candidate Jean-Pierre Bemba yesterday in Kinshasa. Makila, who works for private weeklies The Post and Révélateur, told the Committee to Protect Journalists he was saved by a few bystanders who pleaded with the mob on his behalf. Rioters seized Makila’s camera after he photographed an arson attack on a building housing the High Authority on Media, a national press watchdog.

At least four people were killed in the rioting, and several buildings were looted and set ablaze, according to international news reports. It was not immediately clear what sparked the attack on the High Authority on Media building. The agency, charged with overseeing media ethics, has imposed some sanctions in regard to election coverage.

The Democratic Republic of Congo holds elections Sunday for a president and parliament, the first national polls since independence from Belgium in 1960.

“This attack highlights the serious safety concerns for journalists covering the news in the Democratic Republic of Congo, especially at this time,” CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon said. “We call on all parties to ensure that journalists are able to cover the elections freely, and without fear of reprisal.”

CPJ has documented a sharp increase in attacks on the press in the run-up to the general election. These include the murder of freelance journalist Bapuwa Mwamba by unidentified gunmen who burst into his home on July 8. For more information, see CPJ’s July 10 news alert: