In DRC, police disrupt photojournalists’ march honoring slain colleague

New York, August 16, 2007—A peaceful march today led by photojournalists in DRC’s capital, Kinshasa, to demand justice for last week’s assassination of freelance photojournalist Patrick Kikuku Wilungula was interrupted and dispersed by police, according to press freedom group Journaliste en Danger and local journalists.

Police turned back at least 200 photographers who were silently walking through Kinshasa’s central Gombe district, many donning black headbands. They said local district authorities had not been informed of the march, photojournalist John Bompengo told CPJ.

But according to Bompengo, who is also the vice president of the Congolese national association of photographers, provincial and city authorities as well as security services had consented to the march after the group submitted written notices last week. The marchers included photojournalists and commercial photographers who frequently contribute to media outlets, he said.

“Rather than disrupting peaceful protests, authorities should concentrate on bringing Wilungula’s killers to justice,” CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon said.

About 100 officers with batons, shields, and tear gas blocked the march, which was supposed to culminate in handing Interior and Security Minister Dénis Kalume Numbi a petition urging the government to find Wilungula’s killers, journalists told CPJ.

Wilungula was shot dead on August 9 in the eastern border town of Goma by unidentified gunmen who escaped with only his camera. Provincial authorities have been investigating, but no arrests have yet been made, journalists in Goma told CPJ.

César Balume, the president of Goma’s association of photographers, says the organization has planned a photo-free day for August 25—when photographers will stay home from work to protest Wilungula’s death, he told CPJ.

CPJ named the DRC this year one of the world’s worst backsliders on press freedom .