By Julius Odeke
Authorities in the Democratic Republic of Congo should bring to account soldiers involved in a raid on a radio station in the eastern town of Kabambare, and the arbitrary detention and beating of two of the station’s journalists, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
Soldiers of the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (known by the French acronym FARDC) stormed community station Radio Tujenge Kabambare on January 2 and ransacked its studios and confiscated equipment, including computers, generators, solar panels, mobile phones, and recorders, according to the station’s director and the Congolese press freedom group OLPA.
The soldiers detained the head of programs, Senghor Fundi Kamulete, and technician Shabani Bin Shabani for a few hours in a military camp, where they were beaten with rifle butts, OLPA said. Fundi and Shabani are hospitalized and being treated for injuries to the head, chest, and arms, the station’s director, Gekalom Kalonda Mukelenge, told CPJ.
Mukelenge said another group of soldiers raided his home, which is near the station, and accused him of hiding a member of the M23 rebel group. The soldiers assaulted members of his family and ransacked the house, he said.
The reason behind the attacks was not immediately clear. Mukelenge could not point to any sensitive recent stories, but said the station has in the past aired reports critical of the military, including interviews with local citizens accusing soldiers of extortion at arbitrary checkpoints.
“We condemn the attack on Radio Tujenge Kabambare and its journalists, who have a right to cover the military’s activities without obstruction or intimidation,” said CPJ Africa Advocacy Coordinator Mohamed Keita. “We call on Congolese authorities to hold their soldiers fully accountable under the law.”
Congolese government spokesman Lambert Mende told CPJ he received information about the attacks today and that an investigation was under way. “I have addressed an urgent note to my colleague, the minister of defense. Tomorrow, I will have an idea of measures to take,” he said. “This is not acceptable. The army is not tasked with leading police operations. We will shed light on this.”