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Cablegate: National Television Journalists Arrested for Union Activism

VZCZCXRO3696
RR RUEHBZ RUEHDU RUEHGI RUEHJO RUEHMR RUEHRN
DE RUEHKI #0943 2191640
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 071640Z AUG 07
FM AMEMBASSY KINSHASA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 6668
INFO RUEHXR/RWANDA COLLECTIVE
RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AF DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC
RHMFISS/HQ USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE
RUFOADA/JAC MOLESWORTH RAF MOLESWORTH UK

UNCLAS KINSHASA 000943

SIPDIS

SIPDIS
SENSITIVE

E.O.12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PHUM KDEM KPAO CG
SUBJECT: NATIONAL TELEVISION JOURNALISTS ARRESTED FOR UNION ACTIVISM

Sensitive but Unclassified. Not for Internet Distribution.

1. (SBU) Summary: Three journalists of the public broadcaster Radio
Nationale Television Congolaise (RTNC) were arrested because of
their trade union activities on 26 and 27 July 2007. A local human
rights organization condemned the arrests and warned of a pattern of
questionable detainments across the country. The arrest of the trade
unionists underscores, again, the need to support efforts aimed at
promoting a responsible and independent press, especially in regard
to state-controlled media. End Summary.

2. (U) On the basis of testimony collected from RTNC staff, local
media watchdog Journaliste En Danger (JED) reported that RTNC
journalists Vincent Hata, Michel Shango and Eugene Risasi Tambwe
were arrested for attempting to convene a general assembly that
would include all RTNC employees in order to demand payment of ten
months' bonus arrears. Makolo Tshilumbayi, a non-journalist who was
in the RTNC compound to visit RTNC general manager Emmanuel
Kipolongo, was mistaken for a trade unionist and arrested at the
same time. Kipolongo is said to have accused the journalists of
preparing a meeting with a view to destroying the national TV's
installations. He reportedly ordered the presidential guards who
protect RTNC premises to apprehend the journalists. The union
activists' meeting came as a last resort following RTNC management's
persistent refusal to negotiate the bonus arrears with union
delegates.

3. (U) After being held and ill-treated in a presidential guard
camp, Hata, Shango, Tambwe and Tshilumbayi were transferred on July
28 to a detention centre of the police Directorate for General
Intelligence and Special Services (DRGS). According to a DRGS
officer, the three journalists and Tshilumbayi were charged with
"insulting the president, trying to destabilize RTNC and shame the
government by launching a strike." Tambwe and Tshilumbayi were
released on July 31. JED, however, noted an increase in questionable
arrests across the DRC and the violation of the
constitutionally-granted right to engage in trade union activities.
The rights group called for the appearance of the remaining
imprisoned journalists in a legitimate court.

4. (SBU) Comment: For many years and under different regimes, RTNC
has been used by successive governments as an instrument for
propaganda. The Kabila government has continued this longstanding
tradition of strict central government control over state-owned
media, including editorial content. While there have been
occasional signs of improvement, these practices continue, strongly
limiting journalistic objectivity on the part of RTNC reporters and
staff, and providing only a very limited right to dissent. It is
hoped that in the coming months the DRC National Assembly will adopt
proposed press legislation establishing, among other priorities, a
regulatory system that provides for the independence and neutrality
of the national media. End comment.

MEECE

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