Paris, 7 November 2017
Dear Minister Mende,
Reporters Without Borders (RSF), an international NGO that defends the freedom to inform, would like to express its concern about your criticism on 3 November of the Congolese press freedom NGO Journalist in Danger (JED).
In your speech, you questioned the credibility of the report that JED had published the day before and you accused JED of “political activism.” You also implied that some of its members could be arrested.
We fully support JED and its publications. In this case, JED carefully compiled the findings of the research that its staff had conducted and published throughout the past year. In this report, released on International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists, JED said there has been a nearly 40% increase in attacks against journalists by various state authorities in the DRC, which is ranked 152nd out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2017 World Press Freedom Index, having fallen 10 places since 2013.
We realize that these figures might prompt you to react and we hope that, in response to these grim findings, your staff will do everything possible to identify and punish those responsible for these attacks, more than 80% of which were carried by military, police or administrative personnel. We also ask you to do more to protect journalists, who should not be the victims of abuses just because their reporting displease local or national authorities.
The accusations that you made against JED, a leading Congolese civil society organization, are worrying and foster a threatening climate for JED’s staff, who need to be able to work freely. Since your comments, JED has received several “warnings” and calls for caution from supposedly well-intentioned persons. As minister of communication and media, you have to duty to set an example and to not legitimize violence against the media.
We therefore urge you to ensure the safety of JED’s staff, whose work has been hailed by many international organizations and media outlets all over the world.