12 July 2006

JOURNALIST KILLED AS ELECTION NEARS


Journaliste en danger (JED), Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières, RSF) and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) have expressed concern about the safety of journalists in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) as the country prepares for its first elections in more than 40 years.

On 8 July 2006, freelance reporter Bapuwa Mwamba was shot dead by unidentified gunmen in the capital, Kinshasa. He was the second journalist killed in the past eight months.

According to JED, the attack "did not look like a random act." A day before his murder, Mwamba wrote an article in the daily newspaper "Le Phare", which criticised authorities and the international community for what he called the "failure of DRC's political transition." He wrote, "An increase in militia activities has added to the growing insecurity that reigns in the East. Frequent attacks on human rights, caused most often by the military, are now part of the Congolese landscape . . . The State does not function."

The DRC's Information Minister, Henri Mova Sakanyi, said in an interview with Radio Okapi that he would meet with President Joseph Kabila and other high-ranking government officials "to speed [up] the investigation" into Mwamba's murder.

Last March, JED reported that men in military garb raided Mwamba's house, stealing a cell phone and US$850 in cash. The assailants reportedly threatened to kill Mwamba, who later filed a complaint to the police that was not followed up.

Mwamba is the second journalist killed in the past eight months. On 3 November 2005, Franck Ngycke Kangundu and his wife, Hélène Mpaka, were gunned down by unidentified men. JED reports that three soldiers charged with the murder will go on trial on 12 July.

On 30 July, the DRC will be holding its first elections since 1960. JED, RSF, CPJ and Human Rights Watch have called on DRC authorities to do more to guarantee the safety of journalists covering the elections. The organisations have documented a spate of attacks against journalists that have occurred in the past four months (see: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/74903/).
JED itself has received death threats for its press freedom monitoring activities. On 20 May, staff members received an anonymous e-mail saying "choose which coffin you want." It also threatened their families and claimed that "we know all your homes and schools."

Visit these links:
- JED: http://www.jed-afrique.org/- CPJ: http://www.cpj.org/news/2006/africa/drc10july06na.html- RSF: http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=18233- Profile of JED: http://www.cpj.org/Briefings/2004/DA_fall04/JED/JED.html- Human Rights Watch: http://hrw.org/backgrounder/africa/drc0606/index.htm- U.N. Report on Human Rights in the DRC: http://www.monuc.org/News.aspx?newsId=11515- Profile of DRC Elections: http://www.aceproject.org/regions-en/africa/CD

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