Reporters Without Borders (RSF) welcomes this week’s decision by a court in Bukavu, in the eastern province of Sud-Kivu, to pass a jail sentence on a regional government employee for threatening Donat Musema, the director of Bukavu-based community radio station Iriba FM, in June 2015.
Coming in the wake of a decree ratified by Sud-Kivu’s governor a month ago on the protection of journalists, the ruling is a victory for freedom of information.
On 14 March, the court sentenced Vianey Shamamba, an official in the provincial administration, to eight days in prison and a fine equivalent to 2,500 dollars. The case was heard in response to the complaint that Musema filed in June 2015 about Shamamba’s death threats against him.
Shamamba threatened Musema after the radio station broadcast a speech delivered in Bukavu by Vital Kamerhe, a former supporter of President Joseph Kabila turned political opponent. RSF issued a press release at the time condemning the threats against Musema and the harassment to which he and colleagues were subjected.
“We hail the Bukavu court’s decision,” said Cléa Kahn-Sriber, the head of RSF’s Africa desk. “We also welcome the positive effect of the decree protecting journalists, which seems to have had an impact on the court, and we encourage the Congolese courts to continue on this path so that journalists can do their job without having to fear abuse of authority.”
The decree protecting Sud-Kivu’s human rights defenders and journalists was ratified by provincial governor Marcellin Cishambo on 10 February, two years after having been voted. It guarantees the confidentiality of journalists’ sources and the right to inform and be informed. It also says the authorities have a duty to protect journalists.
Musema’s right to file a complaint was guaranteed by article 7 of the decree, which says: “In the event that their rights are violated in connection with their activities, human rights defenders and journalists can refer the matter to the competent judicial authorities.”
The Democratic Republic of Congo is ranked 150th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2015 World Press Freedom Index.
Photo: Donat Musema (in blue) on his way to file his complaint (Kivu reporters, juin 2016)