After the death of Laurent-Désiré Kabila on 16 January 2001 the situation remained worrying. Several journalists were arrested in the first half of the year and the former regime’s practices were continued. The security police are still free to arrest, attack and threaten journalists considered to be too critical. In his report published on 1 February 2001, Roberto Garreton, then United Nations special rapporteur on the human rights situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), affirmed that "the conclusions are clear: freedom of expression does not exist in the DRC and the Congolese people have no right to information. [...] In areas under government control [...] journalists are constantly harassed. [...] A vast defamation campaign against the independent press has been run since the information minister, Mr. Sakombi, took up office." In May the main human rights organisation in the country, Asadho, judged the first 100 days in power of the new president, Joseph Kabila, as "negative".
It was only in October that some improvement in the situation could be seen. The private-sector media that had been confiscated and nationalised by Dominique Sakombi were restored to their owners. More importantly, the last journalist jailed in government-controlled territory was released.
The new information minister, Kikaya Bin Karubi, said on 3 May that "the Congolese journalist’s ethics are severely tested by the daily practice of providing constantly distorted, unverified and deliberately false news". He also warned them against "lack of responsibility in the treatment of news" and denounced the use of newspapers as "tribunes to tell lies or settle scores".
Press freedom is constantly threatened in the areas under control of the various rebel movements at war against the Kinshasa government, press freedom is constantly threatened. On 1 January 2002 one journalist was still detained by the Goma-based Congolese Rally for Democracy (RCD) and the rare media that try to maintain a minimum of independence are threatened by the local authorities. A Reporters Without Borders delegation was unable to go to Bukavu (under RCD control) in October to meet journalists. Representatives of the organisation were blocked at the border for over two hours before returning to Rwanda.
Four journalists jailed before 2001 were released during the year.
On 4 January 2001 President Laurent-Désiré Kabila ordered the release of three journalists and ten opposition activists. Freddy Loseke, Emile-Aimé Kakese and Jean-Pierre Ekanga had been detained at the CPRK, the Kinshasa penitentiary and rehabilitation centre. Freddy Loseke, managing editor of La Libre Afrique, was arrested on 31 December 1999 by a group of soldiers at his home. He was accused of publishing two articles announcing an imminent coup d’état by Katanga soldiers. On 23 May 2000 he was sentenced to three years in jail for "insulting the army". The other two journalists were arrested in June 2000 and sentenced to two years in jail for publishing articles likely to "demoralise the army during war time". Lastly, Pierre-Sosthène Kambidi, from the daily Le Phare, spent a few days between 31 December 2000 and early January 2001 in jail. The journalist was reportedly arrested as he was about to publish a critical article about the administrator of Tshikapa, a province in Kasai Oriental.
Eleven journalists were jailed and released during the year.
Members of the Congolese police special services arrested Guy Kasongo Kilembwe, editor-in-chief of the satirical weekly Pot-Pourri, on 28 February in the Kinshasa/ Gombe district. Pot-Pourri had published a cartoon on President Joseph Kabila in its latest issue, as well as a list of ministers whom it considered should not be part of the new government, including the interior minister. During his first days of detention in the cells of the special services of the ANR, the national intelligence agency, Guy Kasongo Kilembwe was whipped by guards. He was released without any explanation on the morning of 22 March 2001, after 23 days in detention. He never appeared in court and was refused visits. The food brought by his family was regularly confiscated by prison guards. ANR officials explained to Guy Kasongo Kilembwe that critical articles about the interior minister were the cause of his arrest.
Washington Lutumba, Matadi correspondent for the privately-owned daily Le Potentiel, in south-western DRC, was arrested on 30 March by agents of the PNC, the national police. He was taken to a police cell and transferred the next day to Matadi central prison. The journalist was accused of publishing a story on 15 March headed "Boma: 45,000 bags of bad flour dumped on the Bas-Congo market", in which he denounced the sale of flour unfit for human consumption, in several towns in the region. On 5 April a Matadi correspondent for the privately-owned daily Forum des As, Jules-César Mayimbi, was also arrested for publishing an article on the sale of the same flour. Both journalists were charged with "injurious accusations" and released on parole on 18 May by the Matadi peace court. Ten days later they were sentenced to 45 days in jail and a fine of 25,000 Congolese francs (about 100 euros) in damages. Since they had already spent 56 days in detention, the court ordered their release.
The managing editor of La Libre Afrique, Freddy Loseke, was arrested on 30 May and taken to a cell at the Kinshasa/Kalamu county court. The next day he was taken to the CPRK and charged with "injurious accusations" and "libel". In a libellous article published on 19 April, La Libre Afrique had stated that the director of Walt’Air, "accommodated by a Congolese woman", had "arrived in the DRC empty-handed" and "was doing business with the Angolan rebel chief Jonas Savimbi". The journalist was consequently sued by Walt’Air. He was also charged with "libel" against a clergyman, Sony Kafuta. La Libre Afrique had reported that Mr. Kafuta failed to pay his debts and owed 400 dollars to a Kinshasa mechanic, and that he had "arranged an assault on a creditor for demanding his money". The Kinshasa peace court gave Freddy Loseke a double jail sentence of 12 and five months (three of which were suspended). In the end he was released on 6 November at the request of the justice minister, Ngele Masudi, after spending over five months behind bars. Freddy Loseke had already been jailed previously for publishing false and unverified information.
Joachim Diana Gikupa, managing editor of the daily L’Avenir, went to the Kinshasa ANR on 14 June for a "press consultation". As soon as he arrived he was arrested and locked in a cell because of an article published by L’Avenir on 8 June headed: "J. Kabila torpedoed by his entourage". The story was published with a faxed letter by the director of the state president’s cabinet, Théophile Bemba, asking an ANR chief to "do everything necessary to prevent" a press conference by the head of the cabinet of former President Mobutu Sese Seko. The ANR agent asked Joachim Diana Gikupa to reveal the identity of the person who had enabled him to obtain the document - which Théophile Bemba claimed was "a fake". The managing editor was released on the afternoon of 22 June after eight days in detention in very trying conditions. "In the first two days I was in a tiny cell with only two small air holes. There was just a bit of foam rubber on the ground and I was not allowed to go to the toilets. I was then taken to another cell where it was a little better", said the journalist. These two ANR cells had officially been closed by the authorities in March, on orders from President Joseph Kabila.
Agents of the police special services arrested Pierre Kapepa and Rigobert Kwakala, respectively editor and managing editor of the bi-weekly Le Moniteur, on 30 July. The journalists were detained at a Kinshasa police station until 1 August when they were transferred to a cell close to the Kinshasa/Gombe county court. They were charged with libel by Germain Mukandilwa, general administrator of the Régie des voies aériennes (RVA). Le Moniteur had published a series of articles on the RVA, one of which criticised Germain Mukandilwa’s financial and human resource management. The journalists were released on 2 August.
Crispin Kalala Mpotoyi, manager of the local radio station and television channel Debout Kasai, in the central province of Kasai-Oriental, was arrested on 10 October and detained at Mbuji-Mayi central prison. He was accused of "libel" against political and military authorities and certain officials of the diamond mining company Minière de Bakwanga (MIBA). During the programme which he hosted, "Diamant dia Kasai" (The Diamonds of Kasai), the journalist had denounced their control over diamond revenues, to the detriment of the local population. He was released on 13 October after paying bail of 570 euros, but his programme was suspended until further notice.
A Congolese journalist from the sports service of Radio France Internationale (RFI) in Johannesburg (South Africa), Frédéric Kitengie, was arrested on 5 December in Kinshasa by ANR agents. The journalist was questioned about an interview he had had with the president of a Congolese football team, Moïse Katumbi, also the brother of Katebe Katoto who had announced that he would stand in the next presidential elections. On 8 December Frédéric Kitengie was handed over to the prosecutor who charged him with poor financial management when he had been news manager at Radio-télévision nationale congolaise (RTNC). The journalist was transferred to Kinshasa central prison two days later. On 13 December he was granted parole but prohibited from leaving the country and ordered to report to the Kinshasa prosecutor’s office twice a week. Three days later the measure was lifted and Frédéric Kitengie was able to return to South Africa.
Guy Kasongo Kilembwe, editor-in-chief, and Vicky Bolingola, sub-editor of the satirical newspaper Pot-Pourri, were arrested on 31 December in Kinshasa by agents of the police special services. They were accused of "breach of state security" and "insulting the head of State". That day Pot-Pourri had published a story headed "Because of the incapacity and incompetence of the current rulers... 2002: hunger continues", stating that "serious gloom prevails over the end-of-year festivities [...] In the meantime, Kabila II, theatrical major-general, landed head of State, promises to do miracles in Katanga. Like Kabila I". The two journalists were released on 3 January 2002 on orders of the state prosecutor.
Sixteen journalists arrested
Justin Tsimba wa Nzuzi, editor of the Matadi weekly Kiese Magazine, was arrested on 10 February 2001 by members of the PNC (national police). He was accused of publishing a story a few days earlier, headed: "Would the company Nimba, of Mr. Mikalukidi Nsana Pierre, please justify the use of 20,525,114 Congolese francs taken from the revenue of Bas-Congo province". The journalist asked the director of the company to explain the use of an amount initially earmarked for a road in the Matadi municipal area. He was charged with "injurious accusations" in terms of Article 73 of the penal code. The journalist was released on 12 February. He was summoned on 19 April to appear with Yoka Tseke Tiya, sub-editor of Kiese Magazine, in connection with the same affair.
Africa correspondent for the Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram, Yahia Ghanem, was arrested on 3 February by three soldiers. The men forced him into their vehicle, then let him go a few hours later after taking his money and mobile phone.
On the same day Jean-Luc Kinyongo Saleh, managing editor of the bi-weekly Vision, was arrested at his newspaper’s head office by members of the police special services. He was taken to the jail known as Kin-Mazière in Kinshasa/Gombe. On the way there he managed to escape and went underground. He was accused of publishing an article claiming that the interior minister, Gaëtan Kakudji, was "one of those who took most advantage of the war economy that enabled him to get rich scandalously, in a flash". On 16 March the Kinshasa/Gombe peace court sentenced the journalist in his absence to four months in jail "with immediate arrest" for "libel" against the minister.
Six soldiers, two in plain clothes, arrested Kipela Mondo Pellet, editor-in-chief of the privately-owned L’Avenir, on 23 April near his Kinshasa home. The men took him to the river while discussing what they were going to do to him. Eventually they took his money and mobile phone and released him.
On 1 June André Ipakala, managing editor, and Valère Bisweko, journalist with the privately-owned daily La Référence Plus, were arrested at the daily’s head office by agents of the IPK, the national police. The newspaper had published an article the day before headed "Cut-throat murderers terrorise Kinshasa", illustrated with two photos. The photos were in fact from archives and the IPK accused the newspaper of "alarming public opinion for nothing".
On the same day Précieux Mangonzoly, a journalist with Antenne A, a privately-owned television channel, was arrested by DEMIAP (military intelligence police) agents at the Kinshasa central market. The soldiers checked the content of his films and released him the next day.
On 24 July agents from the PIR, the flying squad, arrested Arnold Zaitman, Kinshasa correspondent for Associated Press and the BBC, and his assistant Soyang Park. The journalist was covering a demonstration in the capital against the ban on the press conference to be held by several opponents, including Etienne Tshisekedi, leader of the UDPS, the Union for Democracy and Social Progress. Fighting broke out between police and demonstrators in front of the Sainte-Anne parish at which the conference was to be held. Arnold Zaitman affirmed that the police took his bag containing his tape recorder, cell phone, credit card, microphone and passport.
PIR agents arrested Michel Mukebayi Nkoso, managing editor of the bi-weekly The Post, on 30 July while he was covering a march by supporters of the opposition. The journalist, arrested with about 20 demonstrators, said he had waved his press card in the air. He was taken to the Kin-Ouest mobile police battalion, where he was forced to lie on his back, facing the sun, for half an hour. He was also undressed for a few minutes. A RAGA-TV journalist, Mwamba Katshinka, was also arrested briefly, with his cameraman, while filming the march.
The managing editor of the bi-weekly La Manchette, François Mada Mbulungu, was summoned to the criminal investigation department on 6 August. There he was immediately arrested and placed in police custody. He was accused of publishing two articles accusing the president of the Lebanese community in DRC of "sabotaging the Congolese economy". The journalist was released two days later.
Innocent Prosper Mbumba, regional managing editor of the weekly L’Eveil in Kananga in Kasai-Occidental province, was arrested on 30 August on orders of the provincial governor, Claudel Libaya. He was accused of publishing an article on incidents during preparations for President Joseph Kabila’s 11 August visit to Kananga. The journalist was released in the evening.
Kainda Kalenga, managing editor of the weekly La Frégate, was arrested by police on 8 October at his Lubumbashi home in the south-east of the country. The journalist was charged with "libel" against a Belgian industrialist in the city. The weekly had said that Congolese employees of the European industrialist were "under-paid compared to their expatriate colleagues". Kainda Kalenga was released in the evening.
On 8 November Gilbert Kasanda Kabala, permanent correspondent for the official agency Agence congolaise de presse (ACP) in Kasai-Occidental province, was arrested and taken to a cell at the local PNC. The journalist had published an article about a woman raped by seven PNC officers in Kananga. He was released on 10 November.
On 31 December police arrested Freddy Embumba, former journalist with the privately-owned daily L’Avenir, and took him to the Kabila military camp in Kinshasa. The journalist was questioned on the reasons for his recent resignation from the Kinshasa newspaper. Thirteen journalists had left the editorial staff of the daily a few days before, in protest against their working conditions. Freddy Embumba was released on 2 January 2002 without being charged.
Two journalists attacked
Trudon Kiomba Shesha, journalist with the weekly Congo Wetu, published in Mbujimayi, was attacked on 23 March 2001 by a group of PNC agents. While the policemen were supposedly carrying out a routine identity check, they warned the journalist that they were looking for people from Congo Wetu because of the weekly’s criticism of the provincial governor. According to the managing editor, Trudon Kiomba Shesha was beaten up and had to be treated in Mbujimayi hospital. Congo Wetu had denounced the "xenophobic remarks of the governor of Kasai-Oriental, Paul Kabongo Misasa", as well as his "greed in the sale of public lands".
A journalist from the daily L’Avenir, Kasongo Mukishi, was assaulted on 23 April by the director of the CPRK, Dido Kitungwa. The journalist was accompanying a delegation from the human rights institute of the DRC bar during a day of free consultations and legal assistance for detainees. Along with several advocates, Kasongo Mukishi gathered testimonies about abuse of power by the prison director who was accused several times of assaulting detainees’ visitors. Dido Kitungwa tried to force the journalist to give him his notes. When he resisted, the CPRK director threatened to have him jailed and ordered the guards not to let him leave until he had read his notes. Owing to one of the advocates’ insistence, the journalist was eventually allowed to leave.
Four journalists threatened
From 13 to 14 February, four armed soldiers besieged the home of the managing editor of the bi-weekly L’Alarme, Clovis Kadda. The journalist had gone into hiding after publishing an interview, the previous day, granted to the French magazine Jeune Afrique Economie by Honoré Ngbanda, former special security adviser to Mobutu Sésé Séko, in which he questioned the paternity of President Joseph Kabila. On the same days photocopies of the interview were being sold in the streets of the city and copies of Jeune Afrique Economie containing the interview were also on sale. During their siege the four soldiers searched in all the photo albums in the house for a photo of the journalist.
Félix Kabwizi Baluku, journalist with the daily La Référence Plus, was arrested
on 21 March in Kinshasa as he left the daily’s editorial offices at 2.30 a.m. He was searched by soldiers who took his money and cell phone and ordered him to flee "without looking back" or they would shoot him.
At 1 a.m. on 26 March about ten armed individuals, some in uniform, went to the home of Mukebayi Nkoso, managing editor of the bi-weekly The Post. A member of the journalist’s family explained that he was not in. In previous weeks Mukebayi Nkoso had published many articles denouncing the government’s control over the privately-owned TV channel RTKM. He was summoned to appear in the Kinshasa/Gombe peace court on 24 May, on the request of former information minister Dominique Sakombi. Early that month the bi-weekly had affirmed that the confiscation of RTKM had been used by Dominique Sakombi "to obtain annual subsidies of 200,000 dollars from Laurent-Désiré Kabila" for the functioning of the channel. The former minister had published a reply in which he stated that he received about 80,000 dollars and that he put that money "in the hands of the persons managing those media". The trial was cancelled when the former minister withdrew his complaint for "reasons of conscientiousness".
At 5 a.m. on 18 July three persons, one of whom was identified as a police inspector from the prosecutor’s office, burst into the home of Joachim Diana Gikupa, managing editor of L’Avenir. The individuals were looking for him because he had "made fun of the president". The journalist was doing a report in Brazzaville at the time.
Pressure and obstruction
On 16 February about a dozen PIR agents arrested at least five newspaper vendors on Victory square in Kinshasa/Kalamu, for distributing the 95th edition of the weekly Alerte Plus. According to witnesses, the PIR were displeased about the headlines of the edition: "Consequences of the assassination of Laurent-Désiré Kabila. List of 16 military officers arrested".
Members of the ANR broke into the head office of the privately-owned regional Radio-télévision Matadi (RTM) on 19 April and seized adverts for a World Health Organisation birth control and Aids campaign. These films, distributed the day before, showed how to use a condom. The ANR considered that the images were an attack on public morals and decency.
On 23 April agents of the PNC and various intelligence services prevented about 20 journalists from the local and foreign press from covering the return to the country of Etienne Tshisekedi, leader of the opposition UDPS. The journalists were arrested and locked in a hangar at Kinshasa/N’Djili airport until Etienne Tshisekedi and his retinue had left the airport. Their cameras were confiscated. The next day the opposition leader granted an interview to the privately-owned television channel RAGA-TV. The video tape of the interview, scheduled to be broadcast on 19 April, was confiscated on orders from the state president’s cabinet.
The 10 May issue of La Libre Afrique was banned for not specifying the name and address of its printer in its columns. According to the managing editor, Freddy Loseke, this was simply a pretext. In reality the newspaper had been banned for publishing an article criticising the action of Zimbabwean soldiers in the DRC. The two supplements, Le Derby and the satirical Incognito, were also banned.
André Kisangani, journalist with the daily La Référence Plus, was summoned to appear in the Kinshasa/Pont Kasa-Vubu peace court on 5 June. He was accused by the former minister of national education, Yerodia Abdoulaye Ndombasi, of signing a story headed: "By publishing a controversial decree on the day the schools reopen, Yerodia sullied and disqualified from national education".
On 9 July the PNC seized thousands of copies of newspapers sold in the streets of Kinshasa. Police received orders from their hierarchy banning "the sale of foodstuffs and other retail products on public roads".
Four journalists with the daily L’Avenir, Joseph Mutambule, Joachim Diana Gikupa, Kipela Mondo and Mireille Kavungu, respectively deputy managing director, managing editor, editor-in-chief and sub-editor, were summoned to the judiciary police (PJP) on 17 July for no stated reason. The journalists refused to comply until a reason was given. The PJP agents went to the daily’s head office but left again on orders from a senior magistrate, alerted by the editor.
On 2 October the ANR in Moanda in Bas-Congo province summoned Ndombasi Kimboko, programme manager and evening newsreader for Radio Communautaire de Moanda (RCM). The intelligence services asked the journalist to read them the entire contents of each news broadcast before going on the air. RCM never complied with this order.
On 13 October the government restored RTKM and Canal Kin to their owners. In September 2000 the then information minister, Dominique Sakombi, had decided to put these private-sector media "under the control of the information ministry". Canal Kin and RTKM thus became Radio Télévision Nationale Congolaise 3 (RTNC 3) and RTNC 4. Programme schedules were also changed. The minister had said that "funds used to acquire these facilities came from the state treasury". The owners of RTKM and Canal Kin also asked for their confiscated equipment to be restored and for damaged equipment to be repaired.
Areas controlled by rebel movements
In his report published on 1 February 2001, Roberto Garreton, United Nations special rapporteur on human rights in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, said that in the areas controlled by the Goma-based RCD (Congolese Rally for Democracy) "there are no opposition newspapers and the rare independent radio stations have been suspended, censored and prevented from broadcasting anything other than official news. Journalists have also been arrested and accused of serving the interests of Kinshasa". In August the special rapporteur again went to the areas under rebel control: "In Goma as in Kisangani, the only party authorised is the RCD. There are no newspapers and those that are published contain only propaganda for the rebel movements".
Very little information is available on press freedom in areas under control of the MLC (Movement of the Liberation of Congo). Press freedom is very limited and no independent media exist. Almost all the media are at the exclusive service of the local authorities.
Two journalists jailed
Jules Ngala, journalist with RTNC, was arrested on 14 January 2001 by RCD internal security agents in Goma after attending a press conference held that day by Adolphe Onusumba, president of the movement. The journalist allegedly asked a question on the dismissal of persons appointed by former RCD president Emile Ilunga. He was taken to a jail known as "the nasty dog" where several journalists have already been detained and ill-treated. Jules Ngala was released a few days later without any explanation.
Kisanga Yenge, local correspondent for the Congolese weekly Les Coulisses, was arrested on 30 October in Kisangani by men from the RCD. He was accused of publishing an article denouncing the misappropriation of textiles by the vice-governor of Kisangani. Kisanga Yenge was detained in the buildings of the town’s intelligence services where he was refused all visits. He was released on 3 November. The 19 December edition of Les Coulisses was seized in Goma by the local authorities. In November 2000 already Kisanga Yenge had complained of sudden visits by men of the RCD.
One journalist arrested
Soldiers went to the premises of the RTNC in Butembo (an area held by the RCD - Liberation Movement, a splinter group of the RCD) on 14 October 2001, where they arrested the station’s Swahili newsreader Lukumbuka. The journalist was detained for 24 hours in very difficult conditions. He was ill-treated by his guards who broke his arm. They accused him of announcing on the air that soldiers had surrounded an Anglican church during a military operation.
Two journalists attacked
RTNC cameraman Alphonse Bauza was beaten up on 10 February 2001 by a major in the RCD army who was told to film the activities of his chief-of-staff on a visit to Goma. However, the only video camera owned by the RTNC was being used at the time by Alphonse Bauza to film the press conference of the deputy head of the communication department.
In September Mbusa Mbene, Kinande newsreader for RTNC, was hit by men in uniform in Butembo. The journalist was not aware of the reasons for this assault.
President Joseph Kabila has been denounced as a predator of press freedom by Reporters Without Borders