Kinshasa, November 7, 2022 – Authorities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo should thoroughly and transparently investigate the soldiers who attacked journalist David Ramazani and the police who briefly detained journalist Janvier Bamunoba, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Monday.
Bamunoba, a camera operator with the privately owned Buniaactualité TV broadcaster, was at the airport in Bunia, the capital of eastern Ituri province, on October 20 to cover the return of musician J-Five Matete, who had recently won a competition in the capital Kinshasa, when police officers detained him, according to Bamunoba, who spoke to CPJ by phone, and news reports.
After learning of Bamunoba’s detention, David Ramazani, the director of Buniaactualité TV and the Buniaactualité.cd news website, told CPJ by phone that he went to the airport to help his colleague.
When he arrived, three DRC armed forces soldiers in uniforms of the Republican Guard stopped him, refused to let him enter, slapped him, punched him in his face, and threatened to whip him if he continued to advocate for his colleague’s release, according to Ramazani and a video of the incident taken by another journalist and reviewed by CPJ.
“Soldiers assaulting journalist David Ramazani as he advocated for the release of his colleague Janvier Bamunoba is a compounding and grim indication of how little respect DRC authorities have for the freedom of the press,” said Angela Quintal, CPJ’s Africa program coordinator, from Durban, South Africa. “Those responsible for the attack and harassment of journalists Ramazani and Bamunoba should be held accountable. Impunity must not continue to prevail in cases where Congolese journalists are victims of state violence.”
Officers accused Bamunoba of filming a fight between a woman and a DRC Air Transport Authority (RVA) agent in an airport waiting room, which Bamunoba told CPJ he denied. Officers reviewed the journalist’s camera and phone, and no images of the fight were found, Bamunoba told CPJ.
“Before my release, the police chief forced me to sign a waiver prohibiting me from publishing this fight in the media,” Bamunoba said, adding that he was released with his camera and phone after four hours.
Ramazani told CPJ he has severe pain in his right eye and has received treatment from an eye doctor, adding that the soldiers “didn’t even want to listen to me or see my press card that I was holding in my hand.”
Abeli Mwango, Bunia urban police commander, told CPJ via messaging app that he was informed of Bamunoba’s arrest via social media and had no further information. CPJ’s calls to Johnny Luboya N’Kashama, the military governor of Ituri, rang unanswered.
According to a report by Amnesty International, military authorities have used their power to undermine people’s rights with impunity, including the right to freedom of expression, since the declaration of a state of siege in North Kivu and Ituri province in May 2021, when all civil power was transferred to the army and police.