Néhémie Paluku
Congolese journalist Néhémie Paluku, a correspondent with Congo 1 and the state-owned Congolese Press Agency, says he was assaulted along with Venus FM reporter Esaïe Mbusa on June 3, 2024. (Photo: Néhémie Paluku)

Church members assault DRC journalists Néhémie Paluku and Esaïe Mbusa

Kinshasa, June 17, 2024—Authorities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo should ensure a credible investigation into the June 3 assaults on reporters Esaïe Mbusa and Néhémie Paluku, the Committee to Protect Journalists said on Monday.

Around a dozen people assaulted Mbusa and Paluku at a local church in Mambasa territory, in the country’s northeast Ituri province, according to a report by the privately owned news site Congo 1, and the journalists, who separately spoke to CPJ

Mbusa, a journalist with the privately owned radio station Venus FM, and Paluku, a correspondent with Congo 1 and the state-owned Congolese Press Agency (ACP), told CPJ they were seeking interviews with members of the local Kimbaguiste church, an independent Christian denomination founded in the DRC, about the church’s dispute with a local businessman over land ownership.

“Journalists in the DRC’s Ituri province live with threat of violence, and unfortunately those who target them are rarely held accountable,” said CPJ Africa Program Coordinator, Muthoki Mumo, in Nairobi. “Authorities should credibly investigate this attack on reporters Esaïe Mbusa and Néhémie Paluku, and ensure that perpetrators are held to account.”

Esaïe Mbusa
Esaïe Mbusa, a journalist with the privately owned radio station Venus FM. (Photo: Esaïe Mbusa)

An unidentified member of the church approached and told the journalists that the church did not want the interviews, and about 10 people started hitting the journalists with stones and sticks, and punching them in the head, according to the journalists and a statement by the local media defense group The Observatory of Press Freedom in Africa (OLPA).

Paluku was treated at a local hospital for minor injuries to his knee and one of his fingers and Mbusa for a head injury, the journalists said. Mbusa told CPJ he lost his mobile phone during the attack, and the phone has not been returned.

The administrator of Mambasa territory, Colonel Maxime Tshishimbi Pombwa, told CPJ via messaging app that he had been informed of these attacks and asked Paluku and Mbusa to file a police complaint.

Mbusa told CPJ he filed a complaint with the local prosecutor on June 14, and that on June 15 a judicial officer and a police officer arrested a suspect, a man that the journalist recognized among his assailants. The case remains under investigation, Mbusa said. Paluku said he prefers not to file a complaint.

CPJ has previously documented attacks on journalists operating in Ituri. In May 2024, soldiers threatened to kill radio journalist Parfait Katoto for his criticism of insecurity in Mambasa territory. In August 2021, three unidentified men killed radio journalist Joël Mumbere Musavuli in his home, also in Mambasa, as CPJ documented at the time.