Congolese government reacts to CPJ report

The government of the Republic of Congo reacted over the weekend to last week’s CPJ special report looking into the unsolved death of Franco-Congolese online journalist Bruno Jacquet Ossébi. We welcome the government’s interest in the case and take note that an official spokesman did not dispute our findings. 

The result of a three-month investigation, our report, “From a Fatal Fire, Many Questions in Brazzaville,” calls on Congolese authorities to consider whether arsonists may have killed Ossébi because of his journalism. Ossébi’s last article, “Oil for a Handful of Dollars,” reported alleged corruption in the government’s management of Congo’s oil wealth. He also covered a sensitive lawsuit involving three African leaders. 

We’ve asked that the findings of a pending government investigation be made public. An initial probe into the fire appeared to have significant shortcomings.

Reacting to our report in an interview with Agence France-Presse, government spokesman Alain Akouala stated: “We want the Committee to Protect Journalists to come to Congo to carry out a serious inquiry into the death of Bruno Ossébi instead of relying on telephone calls.”

That comment distracts from the many critical questions that remain about the mysterious January fire at Ossébi’s home and his subsequent death in a local hospital. It’s worth noting that Koïchiro Matsuura, director-general of the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), has also urged Congolese authorities to carry out a “full inquiry” into the case.

The Congolese independent media have been cautious about reporting on the case. Journalist we spoke to in Brazzaville say it raises so many sensitive questions that they have engaged in self-censorship. CPJ and many others are watching the pending government investigation with great interest and are eager to read the findings.