Reporters Without Borders urges DR Congo authorities to protect press freedom and continue dialogue News
© WikiMedia (MONUSCO/Myriam Asmani)
Reporters Without Borders urges DR Congo authorities to protect press freedom and continue dialogue

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) urged the authorities in the Équateur region of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) on Friday to continue dialogue with the media to address press freedom violations and ensure journalists can work without fear of reprisals. The dialogue commenced on February 17, 2024, when Équateur Governor Bobo Boloko Bolumbu invited journalists to his residence in the provincial capital, Mbandaka, aiming to reconcile after local journalists decided to cease covering the governor’s activities in response to a significant press freedom violation.

Sadibou Marong, the Director of RSF’s Sub-Saharan Africa bureau, welcomed the dialogue and emphasized the urgent need for concrete commitments to uphold press freedom, saying:

The dialogue initiated by the governor of Équateur province is a first positive signal. Firm undertakings must now be given to respect press freedom in order to ensure that media professionals are free to work without fear of reprisals or interference. The recent attacks against journalists are unacceptable and must not be repeated. The authorities must give a solid undertaking to end all forms of harassment of media professionals.

Local journalists in Mbandaka, rallying in defense of press freedom, were arrested earlier this month during a demonstration by members of the National Intelligence Agency (ANR). The protest aimed to show support for Mimi Etaka, the provincial director of the national radio and TV broadcast RTNC, who had been physically attacked by members of the provincial governor’s bodyguard just days prior. The reported assault occurred after Etaka refused to broadcast three of Bolumbu’s decrees appointing new members to his provincial government. Although Bolumbu denied any attack on Etaka when contacted by RSF, claiming that the pictures showing her on the ground were fabricated by his political opponents, he visited the RTNC offices in Mbandaka to apologize.

This is not the first time that Bolumbu has violated the freedom of the press. For example, Steve Mwanyo Iwewe, the director of Radio Télévision Sarah (RTS), a provincial radio station, has been in hiding since January 29, when Bolumbu ordered the ARN to arrest him. According to RSF, Iwewe’s offense was hosting a program on January 27 in which guests criticized the Interior Minister’s decision to reinstate Bolumbu as governor after he was suspended on January 11 over allegations of electoral fraud.

International concerns regarding press freedom and journalist safety in the Democratic Republic of Congo have heightened in recent years. According to a report from a human rights watchdog in the country, the Democratic Republic of Congo ranks very low in the global press freedom index, portraying its legal and institutional environment as among the most hostile for journalists, accompanied by widespread impunity for those infringing upon press freedom. This is exemplified by the case of Stanis Bujakera, a Congolese journalist arrested for reporting in Jeune Afrique on the murder of former Transport Minister Chérubin Okende, a member of the political opposition.