Soldiers with the Armed Forces of the DRC are seen on a patrol vehicle in Beni in December 2022. At least 12 FARDC soldiers arrested, punched, and used belts to hit three journalists who had been covering a land dispute in Kinshasa on June 28, 2023. (AFP/Sébastien Kitsa Musayi)

Congolese soldiers arrest, beat 3 journalists covering land dispute

Kinshasa, June 30, 2023—Authorities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo must hold accountable the soldiers who arrested and beat journalists Jeef Ngoyi, Marie-Louise Malou Mbela, and Jiresse Nkelani, and cease detaining journalists covering the news, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Friday.

On Wednesday, June 28, at least 12 soldiers from the Armed Forces of the DRC (FARDC) arrested, punched, and used belts to hit Ngoyi, a reporter with the U.N.-backed Radio Okapi; Malou, a reporter with state owned Radio Télévision Nationale Congolaise (RTNC); and Nkelani, a camera operator in training with the state owned broadcaster RTNC2.

The three journalists had been covering a land dispute in Kinshasa, the capital, according to a report as well as Malou and Fiston Wavingana, an RTNC camera operator who witnessed the incident, both of whom spoke to CPJ.

Authorities released Malou later that day, and released Ngoyi and Nkelani on Thursday after interventions by the U.N. mission to the DRC, according to a tweet by a local journalist and a Radio Okapi staffer who spoke to CPJ on the condition of anonymity, citing safety concerns. None of the journalists were charged with a crime.

“DRC authorities should hold accountable those responsible for arresting and violently abusing journalists Jeef Ngoyi, Marie-Louise Malou Mbela, and Jiresse Nkelani,” said Angela Quintal, CPJ’s Africa program coordinator, in New York. “The repeated arrests and attacks on Congolese journalists by security forces that are supposed to be protecting the public make for an alarming pattern that must be reversed.”

Before they were attacked, the journalists had interviewed a man who alleged that soldiers evicted him from his home on the orders of the DRC Minister of Urban Planning and Habitat.

A video posted on Twitter by a local journalist appears to show Ngoyi, Malou, and Nkelani after their arrest, sitting in the back of a truck with at least two other men, who CPJ was unable to identify. Two soldiers armed with rifles stand over them, and one of the soldiers can be seen beating them with a coiled rope. 

During their detention, soldiers held the journalists at the local office of the Military Detection of Anti-Patriotic Activities, an intelligence unit known by its French acronym DEMIAP.

Ngoyi told CPJ that they were not seriously injured by the beatings.

Sylvain Ekenge, a spokesperson for FARDC, claimed the journalist had attacked the soldiers, resulting in their arrest.

A local DEMIAP official who was reached by phone declined to give their name or comment. CPJ’s call to the urban planning minister went unanswered.

In November 2022, FARDC soldiers similarly assaulted David Ramazani, director of Buniaactualité TV and the Buniaactualité.cd news website.