Authorities in the Democratic Republic of Congo should investigate threats against at least four journalists in the eastern city of Bukavu and bring the perpetrators to justice, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
"We condemn the threats and acts of intimidation against journalists in Bukavu who are simply doing their jobs," said CPJ Africa Advocacy Coordinator Mohamed Keita. "We hold authorities in the Democratic Republic of Congo responsible for the safety and well-being of all journalists and urge them to investigate these reported threats."
Solange Lusiku, editor of the leading independent monthly Le Souverain, told CPJ that on November 21 she received a phone call from a blocked number. The unidentified caller told her she was going to be killed. Lusiku also said that on Friday, an unidentified man and soldiers visited a cyber café that she frequents and demanded to know her whereabouts. Fearing reprisal, she has since fled Bukavu.
In the most recent edition of Le Souverain, Lusiku had written an editorial blaming Rwanda for fueling instability in the Eastern Congo. Le Souverain covers current affairs in the region, including politics and the M23 rebellion in neighboring North Kivu.
Le Souverain Editor-in-Chief Baudry Aulama told CPJ that he had also received threatening phone calls after he published an editorial in October. His story discussed alleged infighting within the local ruling party and allegations of mismanagement brought by some politicians against members of the ruling administration. The editorial also suggested that a cabinet reshuffle would be appropriate. Aulama told CPJ he has gone into hiding.
Christian Shadiki, police superintendent of Bukavu, told CPJ that he would investigate the threats against Lusiku and Aulama.
Blaise Sanyila, director of private broadcaster Vision Shala Media, told CPJ that on Friday he had received a threatening phone call from a blocked number. Sanyila also hosts a current affairs weekly call-in show for the station, he said. The journalist told CPJ that the unidentified caller threatened him in relation to his reporting and said that they would "put an end to everything" he said.
The day before the phone call, Sanyila said he had been interrogated for two hours by national intelligence agents in connection with his on-air interview with a spokesman of the M23 rebel group that had just seized the eastern city of Goma. Fearing reprisal, the journalist has since fled Bukavu.
Sanyila also told CPJ he was threatened by Marcellin Cishambo, governor of South Kivu, on October 13 after he aired a critical article about the official. Cishambo denied to CPJ that he had threatened the journalist.
Jean Baptiste Badera, a local correspondent for Agence France-Presse and director of local broadcaster Canal Futur Télévision, told CPJ that he, along with Lusiku and Sanyila, had received another threatening text message on Friday from an unknown number that named Cishambo as being part of a plot to kill them and seven other people in the next two days.
Cishambo denied to CPJ any involvement in the alleged plot to kill the journalists. "I don't threaten journalists," he said.
Badera told CPJ that he had been threatened in the past. He also said he had suspended his weekly call-in talk show, "Plein Feu," that discussed current affairs because of the worsening security situation in the region.
Congolese Communications Minister Lambert Mende told CPJ today he was not aware of the threats.