October 25, 2007
President George W. Bush
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20500
Via Facsimile: 202-456-2461
Dear President Bush:
In advance of your meeting with the President of the Democratic Republic of Congo, President Joseph Kabila, the Committee to Protect Journalists would like to draw your attention to the acute problem of impunity in cases of violence against media workers. CPJ is an independent, nonprofit organization dedicated to defending press freedom worldwide.
We call on you to bring to bear the influence of the United States to encourage President Kabila’s government to reinforce the rule of law and bring an end to impunity in attacks against journalists. Impunity undermines efforts to secure a fragile peace after years of civil war. An independent judiciary and a free press are essential to the president’s efforts in tackling corruption.
We welcome President Kabila’s recent statements in support of promoting press freedom and his efforts toward implementing the country’s first democratic elections, which were held last year. We also welcome his recent acknowledgment of “weaknesses” within Congo’s judicial system, particularly the absence of transparency in the murder cases of four Congolese journalists since 2005. He should be encouraged to move ahead with his government’s initiatives to ban criminal penalties for defamation and draft legislation creating a new independent media regulator.
Despite these positive developments, however, press freedom violations continue unabated. CPJ research shows that national and regional officials and security forces, often working autonomously from the central government, were responsible for the overwhelming majority of media abuses targeting television and radio stations this year.
On Monday, Higher Education Minister Sylvain Ngabu ordered police in his office to beat two journalists of the private Horizon 33 TV station, according to local journalists and news reports. Last week, Information Minister Toussaint Tshilombo summarily banned 22 private television channels and 16 radio stations for alleged noncompliance to national media laws. The decision came without notice or legal hearing, as is guaranteed by the Congolese transitional constitution, according to local journalists.
The country’s constitution guarantees freedom of expression and a free press. We ask you to encourage President Kabila to enforce the constitution by establishing an independent judiciary and bring perpetrators of media abuses to justice and nurture a vibrant, independent press as an integral part of DRC’s democratic process.
Thank you for your attention to this important matter.