afrol News, 8 October - The Congolese RCD rebel group's intelligence agents have arrested three journalists from 'Radio Uvira', a local station, according to reports. The journalists allegedly had broadcast news that the rebels' local authorities judged to be critical of their movement.
Intelligence agents from the Rassemblement Congolais pour la Démocratie (RCD, a rebel movement that controls the country's eastern region) have held three 'Radio Uvira' journalists detained since 26/27 September, according to local reports. According to information collected by the media watchdog group Reporters sans Frontières (RSF), the journalists remain detained at the "Bureau 2" military prison in Uvira.
The three detained journalists are reported to be Safari Ntanama, Bugumba Tanganika and Zamukulu Mulungula, all working at 'Radio Uvira' - localised in a territory held and governed by the RCD rebels for years. The RCD authorities - originally supported by Rwanda - have repeatedly been harsh on the press.
According to local sources, the journalists were arrested by order of Tommy Tambwe Rudima, RCD's Vice-Governor of South-Kivu province, who is upset that the journalists broadcast news that he judged to be critical of his movement. He was also upset that they had described the Uvira district as being in a "moribund" state.
The RCD authorities increasingly have been criticised for their attacks on the press, including by the United Nations. In a report published in 2001, Roberto Garreton, the UN former special Rapporteur in Congo Kinshasa (DRC), stated that in the zones controlled by the RCD, "there are no opposition newspapers and the few existing independent radio stations have been suspended, censored and prevented from broadcasting any news other than official reports."
The arrest of the 'Radio Uvira' journalists has caused the Paris-based RSF group to send a strong letter of protest to the RCD rebels.
- Press freedom is very limited in the territories under the RCD's control. Many journalists have been arrested, threatened or assaulted in the region since the start of the conflict, noted RSF Secretary-General Robert Ménard in a letter to RCD President Adolphe Onusumba Yemba.
- Your movement has often expressed its intention to protect human rights and freedom of expression, Ménard added. "The time has come to demonstrate that these are not simply empty words and prove that you will respect the commitments you made." The group further called for the immediate release of the three journalists.
According to RSF's 2002 annual report, "freedom of expression does not exist" in Congo Kinshasa - neither in government or rebel-held territories. Despite some improvement at the end of 2001, "attacks on press freedom in the areas under government control are still frequent, and journalists are still threatened in the areas held by rebel movements." Eleven journalists were jailed and released during last year.
Press freedom is specially threatened in the areas under control of the various rebel movements at war against the Kinshasa government. The rare media that try to maintain a minimum of independence in RCD-held territories are threatened by the local authorities. An RSF delegation was barred from going to Bukavu (under RCD control) last year to meet journalists.
Sources: Based on RSF and afrol archives