Reporters Without Borders wrote to the Democratic Republic of Congo’s public prosecutor today calling for an immediate and thorough investigation leading to the identification and punishment of those responsible for the attempted murder of journalist Jean Ngandu of Radio Okapi two days ago in Lubumbashi (the capital of the southestern province of Katanga).
"We take this murder attempt very seriously and regard it as a sign of the increasing hostility in the provinces towards the independent press," the letter said. "This alarming deterioration is clearly fuelled by political hatred but it is also sustained by the impunity enjoyed by those responsible for this kind of violence. We therefore call on you bring this to a halt and to prevent the DRC from becoming the most dangerous country in Africa for journalists."
Ngandu said he was returning home at around 8 p.m. on 28 May in the district of Bel Air in Kampemba (a municipality that is part of Lubumbashi) when he was ordered to stop by a uniformed soldier he did not recognize, who was accompanied by two other soldiers. The soldier said in Swahili, "You talk to much, we’re going to get rid of you." He then fired five time at Ngandu, without hitting him.
Alerted by the shots, a neighbour who is a policeman intervened and shot in the air with his police firearm, causing the soldiers to flee. As they left, they took Ngandu’s bag, containing his radio reporter’s equipment and material. Neighbours said some 15 soldiers were seen in the neighbourhood earlier in the day, making them suspect a plan to ambush Ngandu.
"This is not the first time journalists have been targeted in Katanga province," Reporters Without Borders said in its letter. "Whenever the political climate deteriorates, journalists are the victims of arbitrary violence - either verbal or physical - by the protagonists. As a journalist, Ngandu recently covered the atrocities by Mai-Mai militias in the north of the province as well as the crisis set off by Katanga’s attempt to break away from the DRC, which was condemned by the government."
Reporters Without Borders also condemned a dismissive remark by provincial deputy governor Diemu Tchikez. When asked by local press freedom organization, Journalist in Danger (JED), to comment on the murder attempt, Tchikez said: "The story is too good to be true. You don’t fire five times at someone and miss him."