Rozen Kalafulo of Pole FM, Freddy Bikumbi of Radio Okapi and Picture Tank photographer Willian Dupuy were attacked and beaten by the police after being told to move away from the demonstration by members of the grass-roots movement Struggle for Change (LUCHA). The police also seized their equipment.
“I was doing my report when Col. Van Kasongo grabbed me by the hair,” Kalafulo said. “He throttled me in front of everyone, punched me in the chest and head, and then confiscated my equipment.”
The equipment was returned to the journalists thanks to the intervention of Tuver Ghundi, a representative of Journalist in Danger (JED), who called Gen. Vital Umiya Awashango, the provincial police commander. Gen. Awashango, who is Col. Kasongo’s immediate superior, has asked to meet with the journalists.
“We firmly condemn this attack by Col. Kasongo, who has a history of violence against journalists, and we call for him to be brought to justice before the relevant military tribunal,” RSF editor-in-chief Virginie Dangles said.
Col. Kasongo, who is deputy commander of the Nord-Kivu police, is notorious for his attacks on journalists. In July 2016, he made a very explicit death threat against Radio Okapi journalist Gabriel Wamenya.
The Democratic Republic of Congo is ranked 152nd out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2016 World Press Freedom Index.