Unidentified assailants wielding machetes killed Papy Mumbere Mahamba, a reporter with the Radio Communautaire de Lwemba broadcaster, in Lwemba, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s Ituri province, in the evening of November 2, 2019, Joel Musavuli, the chief editor of the broadcaster, told CPJ.
The assailants also attacked Mahamba’s wife, who was severely injured but survived, and burned their house down, Musavuli said.
Mahamba hosted a weekly radio talk show called “Loba Toyoka” (“Let’s Talk and We Are Listening”) in the Lingala language, which invited listeners to call in and discuss questions about daily life, Jacques Kambale Kamwira, a technical manager with the broadcaster, told CPJ. Radio Communautaire de Lwemba is based in the town of Lwemba and covers local social issues, he said.
Mahamba recently broadcast advice and information about the ongoing Ebola response in the area, Musavuli and Kamwira said.
Julien Kambale Kalekya, a journalist for the privately owned Radio Television Communautaire Babumbi broadcaster, told CPJ that anyone associated with the Ebola response, including journalists, may be targeted by armed groups because the Ebola response is generally viewed with suspicion, and because journalists are perceived as being responsible for spreading the illness as they move between areas.
Kamwira told CPJ that Mahamba may have been targeted because, in addition to his role as a radio host, he worked as part of the humanitarian Ebola response to disinfect houses and that the police investigation to identify Mahamba’s killers was ongoing.
CPJ called Heni Kapend, a provincial commissioner of the national police, but was unable to ask any questions about the investigation because of a poor connection. CPJ then contacted Kapend via messaging app, but did not receive any response.
Musavuli told CPJ that on November 7, unidentified individuals kidnapped and tortured Kavugho Mutsanga Grace, a local pharmacist, and released him the following day with instructions to tell Radio Communautaire de Lwemba to stop broadcasting. The kidnappers made specific threats to Grace against station administrator Alphonse Mbusa Mughongo along with two others, saying they would find and kill them, Musavuli said.
On November 12, Musavuli told CPJ that Radio Communautaire de Lwemba had decided to suspend broadcasting and released a statement, which CPJ reviewed, detailing the threats relayed by Grace.
Two other broadcasters in Ituri, Radio Télévision Communautaire Babumbi and Radio Communautaire Amukeni, also stopped operating at around the same time, citing similar death threats, according to Kalekya.