Joël Musavuli, the director of Radio Télévision Communautaire de Babombi (RTCB), was stabbed in the neck in his home by unidentified intruders late on the night of 13 August and died shortly afterwards. The intruders also inflicted injuries on his wife, who is in a critical condition.
Musavuli had been threatened for years for trying to raise awareness about the Ebola virus and in recent months had been hosting a programme called “People, let’s open our eyes” in which he was critical of not only of local armed militias but also members of the DRC’s armed forces operating in Ituri.
After a broadcast on 26 July in which he referred to human rights violations by both militia members and regular soldiers during the state of siege declared in May in an attempt to pacify the region, he received a series of death threats from individuals claiming to be members of armed groups and the regular army. He was also briefly arrested by soldiers during a search of several homes in the village on 10 August.
“Joël Musavuli’s murder is a chilling development that deals yet another blow to press freedom in the DRC,” said Assane Diagne, the director of RSF’s West Africa bureau. “We strongly condemn this despicable act against a journalist who was working courageously to cover difficult but essential subjects in a particularly precarious security situation. The authorities must react to the gravity of this situation. The investigation that has been opened must shed all possible light on the case and must lead to the identification and conviction of those responsible.”
RSF had been in contact with Musavuli ever since the 2019 murder of Papy Mumbere, a programme presenter with another Ituri province community radio station, Radio Communautaire de Lwemba. Mumbere was murdered in his wife’s presence after hosting a programme about combatting Ebola.
The imposition of a state of siege in early May has not helped to reduce the frequency of abuses against the media. Parfait Katoto, the director of another Biakoto-based community radio station, was threatened by a man in military uniform in June, after broadcasting a report about army abuses against civilians. A few weeks later, reporter Daniel Michombero was threatened by seven masked men in army uniforms who forced their way into his home in Goma, the capital of the neighbouring province of Nord-Kivu.
The DRC is ranked 149th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2021 World Press Freedom Index.