Two Congolese reporters arrested at presidential palace, held by intelligence agency
Like its local partner, Journalist in Danger (JED), Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns the return of predatory practices towards the media in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the alarming level of abuses against journalists, including yesterday’s arrests of a two-member TV crew in the presidential palace in Kinshasa. RSF calls for their release and for firm measures to prevent a return to the past.
Reporter Odinolas Mobala and cameraman Roublain Bamba, who have presidential palace accreditation and work for Bosolo na politik, a popular current affairs programme carried by several Congolese TV channels, were arrested while covering President Félix Tshisekedi as he was about to hold an audience. They were quickly detained after broadcasting video footage that showed two presidential advisers failing to stand up immediately when the president entered the room. They were then taken to the headquarters of the National Intelligence Agency (ANR), where they are still being held.
“We are absolutely appalled by these arrests and the use of such disgraceful methods,” said Arnaud Froger, the head of RSF’s Africa desk. “How is it that journalists, who just filmed what was happening, were arrested and taken to an intelligence agency whose normal duties are supposed to consist of investigating armed groups and threats to the safety of Congolese citizens?”. Froger added: “This is a serious press freedom violation, one committed in the presidential palace, at the very heart of the government. These arrests send a terrible image. The president’s encouraging promises to promote press freedom sound very hollow after this. We ask him to intercede to obtain the release of these journalists, who did absolutely nothing wrong, and to restore their full status and presidential accreditation.”
In its latest annual report on the state of press freedom in the DRC, published on 2 November, JED voices concern about the return of “predators” – people who use their power and authority to persecute journalists and media outlets that annoy them. JED says that it has registered 116 press freedom violation in 2020, including 40 arrests, and that the ANR is responsible for 70% of the violations.
In a meeting with President Tshisekedi in Paris a year ago, a joint RSF-JED delegation urged him to decree a moratorium on arrests of journalists, to amend the repressive and obsolete media law, which dates back to the Mobutu dictatorship, and to create a national mechanism dedicated to protecting and securing journalists.
The DRC is ranked 150th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2020 World Press Freedom Index.