Reporter Jolly Kamuntu is more than eight months pregnant, but she joined hundreds of Congolese journalists today in nationwide protest marches against insecurity and threats. Kamuntu, who is based in Bukavu, where three reporters have been murdered since 2007, was cited recently in an anonymous text message threatening to kill her and two other local journalists, Delphie Namuto and Caddy Adzuba, if they did not stop “interfering in what does not concern them.” That did not stop her from undertaking a recent reporting trip to Goma, north of Bukavu, where she interviewed refugees displaced by the conflict afflicting the minerals-rich region. “I’m still here. God is keeping me,” she told me.
Today’s marches, coordinated by the Congolese National Press Union in nine of the 11 provinces of the Democratic Republic of Congo, sought to urge members of the national and provincial parliaments to address the safety of journalists, according to local journalists.
In the capital, Kinshasa, press union President Chantal Kanyimbo led more than 100 marchers from the union’s headquarters to the People’s Palace, or national parliament building, where she read a petition to the president of the National Assembly and lawmakers, according to local journalists. “We wanted to impress on them that the press represents a barometer of democracy. Our role is to enlighten citizens with information so they can participate in the development of the country,” Kanyimbo told me.
In Bukavu, more than 930 miles (1,500 kilometers) away, more than 200 marched from the local studios of Radio Télévision Nationale Congolaise to the provincial parliament, according to Kizito Mushizi, president of the local branch of the press union. Mushizi described the discussions with lawmakers as “positive” and “cordial.”
That said, local investigations into the August 23 murder of Bukavu journalist Bruno Koko Chirambiza and death threats against Kamuntu, Namuto and Adzuba, appeared to have stalled for now, according to local journalists. Namuto and Adzuba have moved to undisclosed locations for now. Adzuba, a 2009 recipient of the Anguita Parrado International Prize for journalism, told me today that she is frustrated by police inaction—but she is still reporting.
Mohamed Keita is advocacy coordinator for CPJ’s Africa Program. Keita has written about independent journalism and development in sub-Saharan Africa for publications including The New York Times and Africa Review, and has appeared on NPR, the BBC, Al-Jazeera, and Radio France Internationale. Keita has also given presentations on press freedom at the World Bank, U.S. State Department, and universities. Follow him on Twitter: @africamedia_CPJ.