In DRC, journalist alleges beating by Angolan diplomat

New York, April 21, 2008—A broadcast journalist in the Democratic Republic of the Congo pressed charges today against an Angolan diplomat, alleging he was beaten unconscious by the diplomat and his aides on Saturday, according to local journalists.

Journalists familiar with their colleague’s station, Radio Télévision Mwangaza, told CPJ that the attack was in reprisal for coverage of a voter registration scandal in 2006 involving Angolan expatriates in the run-up to the country’s elections.

News Director Jean-Pierre Ndolo and reporter Pascal Luboya of Radio Télévision Mwangaza, in the Katangan province’s capital of Lubumbashi, were confronted by one of Ngoma’s security guards on Saturday while picking up a package of tapes for broadcast near the diplomat’s residence, according to several accounts. After being forced to move their vehicle—which was marked with the station’s identification—away from the house, the security agent grabbed their car keys and took Ndolo into the compound, according to Luboya.

The news director was then surrounded by more than a dozen people and severely pummeled before Ngoma joined the melee, punching and insulting the journalist, according to Luboya. Police arrested Ndolo while he was unconscious and detained him for more than two hours on Ngoma’s orders taking him to the hospital, according to local journalists. Ngoma later accused the journalist of trespassing and assaulting his wife. Ndolo denied the charges, saying he had never met the diplomat or his wife.

“We call upon the Congolese and Angolan authorities to investigate this assault and the reports that Angolan Consulate personnel were involved,” said CPJ’s Africa program coordinator, Tom Rhodes.

Speaking to CPJ shortly after his release from the hospital today, Ndolo said he suffered from head and chest pains. He said he filed a complaint today with the police for assault and battery against Pedro Gomez Ngoma, the consul general of neighboring Angola in Lubumbashi, he said. Ngoma’s cell phone was out of service when CPJ attempted to reach him.

According to Rose Lukano, president and director-general of Mwangaza (Swahili for “Light”), Ngoma has been hostile to her reporters since the station broke a 2006 story on the illegal voter registration of Angolans in the lead-up to DRC’s historic elections. Neither Ndolo nor Luboya were with the station at the time, but their professional affiliation triggered the incident, she said. Angola temporarily recalled Ngoma in the aftermath of the story, according to local journalists.