The following is an open letter to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton asking that she take action on behalf of women journalists threatened in the troubled Eastern Region of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Dear Secretary Clinton:
In light of your recent advocacy on behalf of Congolese women during your visit to Goma, in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, we are writing to bring to your attention our deep concerns about the safety of three reporters covering women’s issues in Bukavu, south of Goma.
The three reporters, Delphie Namuto and Caddy Adzuba of U.N.-sponsored broadcasting network Radio Okapi and Jolly Kamuntu of local station Radio Maendeleo are members of the South Kivu's Association of Women Journalists (AFEM), which has trained female journalists and presents radio programs spotlighting women's issues, especially in rural areas. The unstable eastern region, which is rich in minerals but devastated by war and atrocities against civilians, including the systematic rape of women, is currently one of Africa’s most dangerous cities for journalists, according to CPJ research. Just three weeks ago, a radio journalist was murdered in Bukavu, the third reporter killed in the city since 2007, and local investigations have not been thorough and transparent in solving the motives and circumstances of the murders, according to CPJ research.
Namuto, Adzuba, and Kamuntu were named in an anonymous text message sent on September 8 to Namuto: “You have a bad habit of interfering in what does not concern you to show that you are untouchable. Now, some of you will die so that you shut up. We’ve just been authorized to start with Kadi, then Kamuntu, then Namuto: a bullet to the head.”
Adzuba, 28, who began her career in 2002 as a presenter with national public broadcaster RTNC and covered issues of disarmament as a field reporter for U.S.-based conflict resolution organization Search for Common Ground, told CPJ she has received at least five menacing calls since September 6. In one instance, the caller said nothing, but held up the phone so she could hear the live radio broadcast of her station, she said. As the first one named to be killed, she is severely traumatized.
Namuto, 35, has been a Radio Okapi reporter since 2003 and is the mother of a 1-year-old girl. Kamuntu, also 35 and eight months pregnant, has been a reporter since 2000. She heads AFEM, and since 2005, she has produced a weekly program on justice that is broadcast on 35 stations in eastern Congo.
Adzuba and Namuto said they were questioned by police on Monday while Kamuntu filed a complaint with the military court on Saturday. In a September 11 letter to Bukavu Attorney General Flory Kabange Numbi, Congolese press freedom group Journaliste En Danger urged authorities to open an investigation and trace the phone number of the caller with mobile carrier Vodacom.
We call on you to impress upon the authorities in the Democratic Republic of Congo the importance of the safety of human rights defenders, including journalists reporting on the war and its impact on vulnerable sections of the population, particularly women.