More than 15 journalists were among those arrested or detained while covering protests in Democratic Republic of Congo on Monday, drawing the condemnation of both MONUSCO and media advocacy organization Reporters Without Borders.
The arrests were among more than 120 documented by the United Nations in Kinshasa and other cities including Goma, Lubumbashi, Beni, Butembo, Bukavu and Mbandaka, the UN said in a statement. The peaceful protests came as Congolese demand that President Joseph Kabila’s administration plan for long-delayed elections and publish the electoral calendar.
“I am concerned by the restrictions imposed on peaceful assembly and arrests of those who seek to express their political views, as well as by the targeting of journalists and the confiscation of their materials,” said MONUSCO chief Maman Sidikou. “I call on the national and local authorities to fully uphold the fundamental rights and freedoms as enshrined in the Congolese Constitution.”
Among the reporters were staff from the BBC, Radio France international and Congo Synthèse working in Goma, who were detained for two hours as the BBC equipment was seized and recordings deleted.
In Kinshasa, seven journalists were arrested and intimidated, including reporting crews from Radio Okapi, VoxCongo, China’s Xinhua and Turkey’s Anadolu news agencies. Other reporters said they were handled with violence during similar episodes in Bukavu and Butembo.
“The sole aim of these arrests was to prevent the journalists from doing their job and covering what were historic events for the DRC, said Clea Kahn-Sriber, the head of the Africa desk at Reporters Without Borders. “The crackdown was part of the government’s attempts to suppress all democratic discourse. These attempts must stop now.”
The media agency, along with Journalists in Danger, issued a joint statement on Friday denouncing the DR Congo’s recent decision to restrict the movements of foreign journalists. Monday’s episodes follow an alarming trend in violence toward journalists, including the arrest and beating of two AFP reporters covering a doctors’ strike last week in Kinshasa.