The vast spread of the former Zaire reflects the problems that confront journalists in this country. In Kinshasa, where the press is abundant, polemical and unruly, a black year for press freedom has been characterised by death threats, abusive arrests and police brutality. At the end of 2005, one of the capital’s most respected journalists, Franck “Ngyke” Kangundu and his wife, Hélène Mpaka, were murdered in horrible circumstances. The outcry within the profession should have forced the authorities to react in a credible manner. Instead the police, despite the evidence, appeared to follow a lead of a common-law crime. After this, the leaders of Reporters Without Borders’ partner organisation in the country, Journalist in danger (JED), which had been outspoken in the case, were targeted for death threats which forced them to abandon their work.
The situation is hardly any better in the provinces. In areas infested with armed groups with vague political aims, journalists are at very serious risk. One, working for AFP, Acquitté Kisembo, went missing in Ituri in 2003 and it appears that he was murdered by militiamen in the area. A well known journalist on Radio Okapi narrowly escaped death in Katanga, while in Bukavu on the border with Rwanda there has been an appalling climate of fear since the murder there of Pascal Kabemgulu Kibembi, an investigator for a local human rights NGO.