Woman reporter beaten by police while covering protest in DRC
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is shocked to learn that a woman reporter was badly beaten by police and detained for several hours when she covered a protest in a provincial town in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The police officers responsible must be immediately identified and punished, RSF says.
Bondeko community radio reporter Justine Lifombi had injuries to her face and was barefoot when finally released from the police station in Isangi, a town in the north-central province of Tshopo, after covering a street protest against Isangi administrator Joseph Mimbenga on 20 January that was banned on public health grounds.
She was interviewing protesters when several police officers grabbed her by the hair, beat her and took her by force to the local police station. Her recording equipment, three mobile phones and shoes were not returned when she was freed several hours later.
Joseph Bassay, the manager of her community radio station, which has many listeners in the region, told RSF that she was beaten “while on the ground and although her attire clearly showed that she was a journalist.”
“Nothing can justify this incredibly violent attack on this reporter, who was just doing her job,” said Arnaud Froger, the head of RSF’s Africa desk. “We call on the local authorities to conduct an investigation in order to identify and punish those responsible. It is time to set up the national warning mechanism for protecting journalists, which RSF has been requesting for years, in order to end this culture of violence against Congolese journalists.”
RSF and its local partner, Journalist in Danger (JED), have been advocating for more than two years for the creation of a national mechanism designed to step up protection for Congolese journalists and ensure their safety.
Violence against journalists is extremely common in the DRC. During an opposition demonstration in September in the capital, Kinshasa, police attacked several reporters including Patient Ligodi, a Radio France Internationale correspondent and director of the Actualités CD news website, Radio UB-FM reporter Nanou Kazaku sustained a gunshot injury to the neck while she was covering a protest against the forcible eviction of residents illegally occupying land on the outskirts of the eastern city of Goma in February 2020.
The DRC is ranked 149th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2021 World Press Freedom Index.