Journalists go into hiding after being threatened in DRC

At least three journalists working in the restive, mineral-rich province of North Kivu have fled into hiding in August and September 2012 after saying they were threatened in reprisal for their reporting, CPJ has learned.

Jean-Baptiste Kambale, director of local station Radio Communautaire Ushirika (RACOU) in the town of Rutshuru controlled by rebels from the March 23 Movement (M23), told CPJ that he had received a threatening phone call from a high-level M23 official on September 25. The M23 rebels, a group of Congolese army mutineers, seized control of towns outside the U.N.-protected provincial capital of Ngoma in July, according to news reports.

Kambale said the official was angry about the journalist’s role in helping a news crew of the French government-funded international broadcaster TV5 Monde interview another rebel official. Kambale said that he was subsequently threatened by both rebel officials over the phone, which he publicized in a TV5 Monde interview. He then fled into hiding.

Congolese press freedom group Journaliste en Danger issued a letter to the M23 rebels on October 19, voicing its protest about the threats, according to news reports. M23 Political Coordinator Jean-Marie Runiga announced the following day in a press conference that the rebels would conduct investigations. “I would like to say that, if this is true, it is not part of M23’s general policies,” the JED quoted Runiga as saying. “This is not what M23’s leaders have chosen to do. And if it is true, I would like, on M23’s behalf, to present my apologies to the journalists who have been threatened, and I promise to conduct enquiries to verify these allegations, and we will punish those responsible.”

Local freelance reporter Evariste Mahamba told CPJ that he fled into hiding on September 11 after he received anonymous threats in connection with his reporting on the plight of civilians in M23-controlled areas.

Journalist Tuver Wundi fled into hiding on August 27 after he said he was threatened by M23 rebels in connection with a July 17 interview he gave to Radio Okapi, according to local journalists and news reports. Wundi told the station that the M23 rebels represented a threat to animals in a local conservation park because the rebels used the park as a shooting range.