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Cablegate: Press Freedom Quarterly: April-June 2008

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DE RUEHKI #0693/01 2381358
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 251358Z AUG 08
FM AMEMBASSY KINSHASA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8331
INFO RUEHXR/RWANDA COLLECTIVE
RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AF DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY COLLECTIVE
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
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RHMFISS/HQ USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE
RUZEJAA/JAC MOLESWORTH RAF MOLESWORTH UK

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KINSHASA 000693

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM PGOV KDEM CG
SUBJECT: PRESS FREEDOM QUARTERLY: APRIL-JUNE 2008

REF: KINSHASA 361

1. (SBU) Summary: Congolese security personnel, often under orders
from government officials, as well as illegal armed groups continue
to harass, intimidate, and detain journalists. Federal immigration
service agents (DGM - "Direction General de Migration" in French)
detained an independent Belgian journalist in Bas-Congo for
investigating the February and March GDRC-BDK (Bundu dia Kongo, a
politico-religious movement based in Bas-Congo) clashes. National
Police arrested a journalist in Lubumbashi, apparently in response
to a request from an Angolan diplomat. In Butembo, North Kivu, a
local journalist received a death threat from a militia commander
for interviewing former child soldiers. The governors of Orientale
and Katanga provinces pressured media stations in response to
reporting that they did not approve. Updating previous cases: ANR
(Congolese national intelligence service - "Agence nationale de
renseignements" in French) agents released Kinshasa daily
"L'Interprete" editor Ponte Nsimba from secret detention and
transferred him to Makala prison in Kinshasa; Radio Television
reporter Justin Kabasele was released pending appeal of his one year
prison sentence; and the Bukavu Military Tribunal acquitted two
friends of murdered journalist Serge Maheshe and confirmed death
sentences for three others. Respect for the freedom and
independence of the press has yet to firmly take hold in the DRC.
End summary.

2. (U) Congolese security personnel continue to harass, intimidate,
and detain journalists, often under orders from government
officials. This quarterly update highlights five new cases of abuse
during the second quarter of the year and updates three cases
reported from the first quarter in reftel.

Detained by authorities
-----------------------

3. (U) DGM officers arrested independent Belgian journalist Colin
del Fosse April 16, in the town of Seke-Banza, Bas Congo, for
allegedly entering mining areas without authorization. The arrest
occurred after he informed the local authorities of his desire to
investigate the March GDRC-BDK clashes, according to a Congolese
human rights group, Voice of the Voiceless (VSV). VSV told us April
22 that the DGM released del Fosse after transferring him to Matadi
the same day without charge.

4. (U) Angolan diplomat Pedro Gomes Ngoma allegedly directed and
participated in the beating of Radio Television Mwangaza (RTM)
journalist Jean Pierre Ndolo April 19 near Gomes Ngoma's residence
in Lubumbashi, Katanga province, according to the NGO Committee to
Protect Journalists. Police arrested Ndolo while he was unconscious
and detained him for more than two hours on trespassing charges,
filed by Gomes Ngoma, before taking Ndolo to the hospital. Gomes
Ngoma allegedly had been hostile to RTM reporters since they broke a
2006 story on the illegal voter registration of Angolans in the DRC
elections. A representative from Comite des Observateurs des Droits
de L'homme (CODHO) confirmed to us April 24 that Ndolo had filed a
police complaint against Gomes Ngoma for assault and battery.
According to local journalists, Angola temporarily recalled Gomes
Ngoma following the incident.

Death threat
------------

5. (U) Austere Malivika Yalal, a journalist with a Radio Television
Nationale Congolaise (RTNC) local affiliate in North Kivu and
correspondent for the South Africa based Radio Canal Afrique,
received a telephone death threat May 10 from Captain Ndaliko of the
Congolese Party of Resistance (PARECO, an armed group based in
eastern Congo), according to a May 15 Journaliste en Danger (JED)
press release. Captain Ndaliko allegedly said "I will kill you
before the International Criminal Court arrests us." Yalal told JED
May 14 that the threat is related to the April 23 Radio Canal
Afrique broadcast of an interview with three child soldiers who fled
from PARECO forces in Kirumba (110 kilometers north of Butembo).
The child soldiers described the mistreatment they received from
their superior officers, including a certain Lafontaine and
Ndaliko.

Interference and intimidation
-----------------------------

6. (U) The station manager of RTNC's Kisangani office suspended
journalist Eddy Abasiko Mango for three months for hosting a program
during which call in guests criticized the provincial government,
even though the businessmen he interviewed were allies of the same
ruling alliance (AMP) as Governor Autsai Asenga. In addition to
criticizing the local military commander, call in guests highlighted

KINSHASA 00000693 002 OF 002


the problems of electric power shortage and unemployment. Abasiko
alleges that the Governor put pressure on the station to discipline
him. Abasiko told us May 27 that he is waiting for his three month
suspension to end before returning to work. He has not suffered any
other offense.

7. (U) Honore Kazadi Lukonde, aka Ngube Ngube, a supporter of
Katanga Governor Moise Katumbi Chapwe, launched a defamation
campaign May 24 against the independent station RTM in Lubumbashi,
according to a May 28 JED press release. Speaking at a press
conference, Kazadi vilified RTM and accused it of being a "media
outlet that propagates hatred, encourages tribalism and divides the
Katangese people." The three main media outlets in the region,
including state-owned RTNC, Radio Television Nyota (owned by the
governor), and Radio Television Wantanshi (which also supports the
governor), broadcast Kazadi's message over several days. RTM CEO
Rose Lukano told us May 27 that the slander campaign is connected to
the RTM's independent stance regarding a local mining company's
controversial road construction project, connecting the Congolese
city of Kolwezi to the Zambian city of Solwezi. Governor Katumbi
opposes the project.

Updates
-------

8. (U) ANR agents transferred "L'Interprete" editor Ponte Nsimba
Embete and assistant David Ntondo Nzovuangu to the main Kinshasa
prison June 7 (see reftel). They currently await a court date after
being charged with spreading false rumors and insulting the
President. Nsimba complained to Poloff during a June 12 prison
visit that the ANR had psychologically tortured him during his three
month detention.

9. (U) A JED representative told us June 19 that reporter Justin
Kabasele of Radio Television Kasai Horizons is now free after
spending time in hiding (see reftel). He is currently appealing his
one year prison sentence for making "damaging" allegations against a
Mwene-Ditu government employee.

10. (U) The Bukavu Military Tribunal finished May 21 the appeal
trial of the four men convicted of the June 13, 2007 murder of Radio
Okapi editor Serge Maheshe (see reftel). The court acquitted
Maheshe friends Alain Mulimbi and Serge Muhima, while reconfirming
the death sentences of Freddy Bisimwa and Mastakila Rwezangabo and
pronouncing a new death sentence on previously uncharged Bisimwa
Sikitu Patient.

11. (SBU) Comment: Respect for the freedom and independence of the
press has yet to firmly take hold in the DRC. Although it has
debated the issues, Parliament has not yet drafted new individual
freedom laws to close the gap between the freedoms guaranteed in the
2006 Constitution and existing laws on press freedom and freedom of
speech, which date from the Mobutu era. End comment.

GARVELINK

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