Cablegate: Ngo Report On Drc Press Freedom Says Violations

DE RUEHKI #1127/01 3561542
R 221542Z DEC 09





E.O.12958: N/A

REF: (A) Kinshasa 448; (B) Kinshasa 969;
(C) Kinshasa 1090; (D) Kinshasa 1097

KINSHASA 00001127 001.2 OF 003

1. (SBU) Summary: The 2009 annual report on press freedom in
Central Africa by NGO "Journalistes en Danger" (Journalists In
Danger - JED) notes a significant decrease in recorded violations of
press freedom in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) from the
previous year. However, the report also describes a repressive
atmosphere due to pressure exerted on journalists and press organs
by government officials, ranking from cabinet ministers to agents of
the national intelligence service and local police officers. The
chilling effects of these pressures, along with economic
difficulties, often push journalists to engage in self-censorship
and/or corruption. While the GDRC touts the decrease in recorded
incidents as indication that it supports a free press, JED argues
that the situation has by no means improved, and rather that
repression has become "softer," but no less effective. End

Actual violations are down

2. (SBU) The state of freedom of the press in the DRC dominates
JED's 2009 report on the subject in Central Africa, titled "Freedom
of the Press: Living between Fear and Survival." According to the
report, published on December 10 to commemorate International Human
Rights Day, there were 31.8 percent fewer violations against press
freedom in the DRC during 2009 than the previous year (in the
report, documented violations include murders, assaults, arrests,
detentions, threats, and illegal sanctions or censorship against
journalists or press organs). While JED recorded 110 violations in
2008, the group found only 75 in 2009.

But soft repression remains

2. (SBU) Despite the significant decrease in documented violations,
JED did not find a measurable improvement in either the overall
state of press freedom or the content of press reports. The NGO
also argues that forces working to restrict press freedom have
become both more subtle and more effective. In his introduction to
the report, JED President Donat M'Baya writes that "methods of
repression have become softer," and journalists are increasingly
resorting to self-censorship. M'Baya argues that following a series
of murders of journalists beginning in 2005, and the government's
inability (or unwillingness) to prosecute those responsible,
"journalists have become afraid to address, in a professional
manner, certain difficult subjects like the war in the East,
corruption and embezzlement."

3. (SBU) JED singles out for criticism Minister of Media and
Communications Lambert Mende, some of whose public statements were
"barely veiled threats" against the press, while his official
actions like the cutting of Radio France International's signal
throughout the DRC (Ref A) and insistence that international
journalists be subject to military penal code (Ref B) were clear
violations of press freedom. However, in a December 11 letter to
selected ambassadors from Europe and the U.S., Mende used the same
report that criticizes him to bolster his claims that efforts by the
GDRC to improve human rights in general and liberty of the press in
particular have worked. JED also highlights the role of the
Qparticular have worked. JED also highlights the role of the
domestic intelligence service (ANR), which it claims was responsible
for 26 of the 75 documented incidents of attacks against the press.
The ANR, particularly in the provinces, is called "the most
repressive agency against freedom of the press."

Buying of consciences

4. (SBU) Economic and political pressures severely restrict press
freedom, according to the JED report, which comments: "Yesterday's
repression has been replaced by the buying of consciences." The
widespread custom of buying off journalists to report favorable
stories (Ref C) has become institutionalized by the hiring of
journalists by government officials. The JED report criticizes
Prime Minister Adolphe Muzito for having "hired journalists from all
the principal media organs in Kinshasa." These journalists spend
their days working for the prime minister, "and at night are in
their respective newsrooms, making sure there is no bad news."
According to JED, this practice is not restricted to the Prime
Minister. "Every ministry has its own journalists who work as press

KINSHASA 00001127 002.2 OF 003

agents or communication advisors." This leads to a situation where
"the borders between communication, propaganda, and news no longer
exist," particularly in television news broadcasts. As a
consequence, the public increasingly turns off news programs,
preferring camera-on-the-street shows like "Le Journal en Lingala
Facile (The News in Simple Lingala)," which they find more
accurately portrays life in the DRC.

Murder and Death Threats

5. (SBU) One murder and 17 cases of threats or harassment against
journalists were recorded in 2009. South Kivu remains the most
dangerous province for journalists, with one journalist murdered and
several receiving death threats (Ref D). During the night of August
22-3, Bruno Koko Chirambiza, a journalist at Radio Star, was
murdered in Bukavu, South Kivu. On September 9 in Bukavu, two
female journalists for Radio Okapi, Delphine Namuto and Kadi
Adzouba, received death threats by SMS, while Jolly Kamuntu, a
journalist for Radio Maendeleo, was also named as a target.

6. (SBU) Gilbert Nawezi, journalist with Radio du Plein Evangile
(Full Gospel Radio), a religious radio station in Likasi, Katanga
Province, received a death threat from an agent of the ANR on
February 27, in reaction to a broadcast where Nawezi commented on
the state of local roads. Joel Buabua Nuamona, journalist with
Business Radio Television and Radio Television Kintwadi in Kinshasa,
received a death threat by SMS on March 26. Jeef Saile, editor of
the Kinshasa weekly Le Barometre, received an SMS on September 17
threatening him and his family with death, shortly after having
published an article on alleged embezzlement in the Ministry of
Finance. On October 18, Alain Bakajika, reporter with the
government radio-television network RTNC, received two phone calls
from the same unidentified person threatening him with death if he
wasn't careful what he said on the air. (Note: While the previous
murders of journalists give cause for all these threats to be taken
very seriously, some might just be acts of crude intimidation or
even pranks. End note.)

Acts of violence

6. (SBU) JED documented 17 cases of assault against journalists in
2009. Pierre Komba, journaist with Radio Television Amani, a
religious rado station owned by the Catholic Church in Kisangani,
was assaulted by national police officers on January 23, while he
covered a march of local students protesting against the
reinstatement of a school principal suspended for corruption.
Jomming Kasiama, cameraman with Canal Kin TV, a private television
station associated with the political opposition, was assaulted by
national police officers on January 19 while filming damage to a
Kinshasa street. Kathy Katayi, reporter with Radio Okapi in
Kananga, Kasai Orientale, was assaulted on March 3 by a dozen
officers of the national police. Tresor Nduaya, cameraman with
Canal Congo Television, a private television station in Kinshasa
associated with the political opposition, was assaulted by officers
of the national police while trying to film the demolition of
private homes. Paulin Munanga, reporter for Radio Okapi in
Lubumbashi, was assaulted on August 7 by agents of the ANR while
covering a demonstration by human rights activists. Pepe Lisungi,
Qcovering a demonstration by human rights activists. Pepe Lisungi,
journalist with OPED FM, a private radio station in Kisangani, was
assaulted by the governor of Orientale Province and his bodyguards,
while covering a strike by unpaid workers.

Arrests and detentions

7. (SBU) JED documented 23 cases of journalists being arrested or
detained during the course of their work. Coco Tanda, cameraman for
Canal Numerique Television, a private station in Kinshasa, was
arrested on March 15 and held for two days, along with three
representatives of local NGOs, for having organized a march and
sit-in to protest the eviction of National Assembly President Vital
Kamerhe. Guillaume Mudibu, assistant director of Maendeleo de
Salamabila radio station in Maniema Province, was arrested on
charges of abetting high treason for having aired an interview with
a local traditional chief whose declarations were seen to have
"discouraged" Congolese military forces operating in the region.
Patrick Mukengeshay, director of Radio Television Amazone in
Kananga, Kasai Orientale, was detained by agents of the ANR on June

KINSHASA 00001127 003.2 OF 003

3 for having broadcast a press statement by a human rights NGO
alleging abuse of power by the ANR. On April 4, Jean-Pierre
Katende, journalist with RTEELDA religious radio in Mbuji-Mayi,
Kasai Orientale, was held for 19 hours by ANR agents for having
broadcast a statement by local political figure criticizing
corruption in the provincial assembly. Rochereau Kighoma, director
of Radio Liberte Butembo in North Kivu, was called in by agents of
the ANR on June 11 and held overnight, during which time he was
questioned concerning a broadcast critical of the governor of North
Kivu. The next day, ANR agents visited the radio station and
confiscated a cassette recording of the broadcast.

Legal sanctions and censorship

8. (SBU) JED documented 16 cases of sanctions and 12 incidents of
censorship in 2009. (Note: While DRC law and social custom support
certain acts of sanction and censorship, JED has previously argued
for decriminalization of contraventions of press laws, and some of
the cases reported as violations of press freedom reflect that
opinion. End note.) Some of these acts had clear political
motives: A controversy concerning Vital Kamerhe, President of the
National Assembly, in mid-to late-March, provoked the temporary
interruption of broadcasts by Antenna A, Tele 7, Canal-Kin TV, as
well as the harassment of newspaper street vendors by police
officers. A provincial minister ordered the signals of Radio
Communitaire du Katanga and Radio Television Likasi 4, private
stations in Katanga Province, to be cut from March 11 to May 4
because of their coverage of a local railway workers' union strike.

9. (SBU) Comment: While the decrease in reported incidents is good
news, some high-ranking GDRC officials continue to maintain an
aggressive posture toward the news media, as evidenced by the
violations documented in JED's 2009 report. Many seeking to stifle
the press have found that a subtler mix of political pressures and
economic incentives is not only more effective, but also provokes
fewer repercussions from NGOs and the international community. This
demonstrates that the GDRC is sensitive to criticism, and some
progress is being made. Further efforts to enhance press freedom
should not only address political repression, but also acknowledge
economic challenges faced by journalists and media organizations in
the DRC. The fact that the GDRC publicly acknowledges the
importance of a free press is a welcome development, and also
establishes a standard to which it can be held in the future. End


© Scoop Media

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