Two Congolese journalists held by police for critical reporting on military

New York, July 15, 2016 – The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the arbitrary detention of two radio journalists in the Ituri district of Oriental Province in the northeastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, and calls on Congolese officials to release them both immediately.

Jacques Unyuta Tuambe and Joël Ular Wedunga, both radio reporters for Radio la Colombe, based in the town of Mahagi, were arrested separately on July 8 and 9 respectively, according to the Observatory for Press Freedom in Africa (OLPA), a Congolese press freedom organization. According to the OLPA, both Tuambe and Wedunga have been held without charge by Congolese National Police since the dates of their arrests. The journalists were both arrested while at the radio station’s office, in both cases while reporting on a petition led by local lawyers gathering signatures condemning military harassment of the public in Mahagi, according to Congolese press freedom group Journaliste en Danger (JED).

The country has seen a number of press freedom abuses over the past 18 months, including internet blackouts, arbitrary arrests, attempts at censorship, and physical attacks on journalists, according to CPJ research. Presidential elections are scheduled later this year, but according to a Reuters report, at a July 14 press conference, Maman Sidikou, the head of the UN mission in the DRC, said, “I do not see the elections (taking place) on Nov. 27.”

“The purpose of journalism is to hold powerful institutions, including the military, to account, particularly with significant elections on the horizon,” said CPJ Africa Program Coordinator Angela Quintal. “Congolese officials must respect the role of the media, and we urge them to release these reporters immediately.”

CPJ’s calls to the Congolese National Police and to the Congolese consulate in New York went unanswered. CPJ’s calls to the managing director of Radio la Colombe also went unanswered.