Neither his family nor his colleagues have heard from him since he left home without taking his phone with him on the morning of 11 September, after receiving a phone call from an unidentified person, according to the Radio Svein’s manager, who has issued a statement voicing his concern.
The host of a Sunday programme called “Mkate” that covers general news and politics, Murhabazi often gets threatening texts. RSF has seen some of these texts, in which he is called a “devil” and “little journalist” and is told that ruling party presidential candidate Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary should be “left alone.”
Murhabazi was asked to stop talking about Shadary after dedicating last Sunday’s programme to him, one of Murhabazi’s colleagues told RSF.
“We ask the Congolese authorities to do everything possible to locate Hassan Murhabazi,” said Arnaud Froger, the head of RSF’s Africa desk. “The threats received by this journalist in connection with his coverage of political developments must be taken seriously. The authorities have a duty to protect journalists, who are especially exposed with just three months to go to a presidential election.”
After trying without success to reach Sud-Kivu’s governor by telephone, RSF sent him a message asking him to notify the police and get them to open an investigation into Murhabazi’s disappearance.
The presidential election is scheduled for 23 December in the DRC, which usually sees an increase in press freedom violations in the run-up to elections.
According to RSF’s tally, journalists were the victims of a total of 22 attacks and 35 arrests during the first eight months of 2018, with most of these arrests being carried out in a completely illegal manner. Two Bukavu journalists had to flee their homes in July after receiving death threats in connection with their documentary about villagers being evicted from land claimed by President Joseph Kabila.
The DRC is ranked 154th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2018 World Press Freedom Index.