Journalist In Danger (JED), the partner organization of Reporters Without Borders in the Democratic Republic of Congo, paints a bleak picture in its annual report published on 28 December and calls on the government to put an end to the growing crackdown on the media.
The report was published in the wake of a disputed election and while the country was still gripped by tension. Joseph Kabila, acknowledged by the Supreme Court as the winner of the election, was sworn in on 20 December. His main opponent, Etienne Tshisekedi, who believes himself to have won the ballot, was also sworn in, at his home on 23 December.
In the report, which focused mainly on attacks faced by the media during the election period, JED referred again to the “propaganda frenzy” which it had already deplored when it was monitoring the media during the campaign.
It criticised the disastrous performance of the country’s journalists which, combined with “tension and political intolerance” as well as “incitement to hatred and violence”, was at the root of more than half of the 160 attacks on press freedom identified in 2011.
The organization reopened the question of professionalism in the news media and questioned the credibility of news organizations, which it said was seriously damaged by the behaviour of journalists during the campaign.
The figures for this year are indisputable: JED recorded the murder of one journalist, in Kirumba in June, 42 arrests, 57 cases of threats or assault, 43 cases of censorship or restrictions on the flow of information and 17 cases of pressure on news media.
JED condemns the “growing crackdown” on the Congolese press in 2011, which intensified substantially around 28 November, polling day in both the presidential and parliamentary elections. It called on the highest authorities to take urgent action to “rescue freedom of the press”.
The organization also recommended that the head of state abolish the Higher Council for the Audiovisual Sector and Communication, which it said had been conspicuous in recent months because of its lack of independence and avowed incompetence, and called for its replacement by a more credible and competent body.
Finally, the organization compiled short summaries of conditions in eight other countries of the Central African Early Warning System (Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Equatorial Guinea, Republic of Congo, Gabon, Rwanda).
Download the Journalist In Danger annual report in PDF form, in French :