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Democratic Republic of Congo14 June 2007

Leading Congolese journalist employed by UN-backed radio gunned down in Bukavu

Reporters Without Borders is shocked by last night’s murder of Serge Maheshe in the eastern city of Bukavu, the capital of Sud-Kivu province. Maheshe, who was news editor of the Bukavu office of UN-backed Radio Okapi, was shot by gunmen as he was about to get into his UN-marked car in a residential neighbourhood.

“A great journalist, who did honour to his profession in a country that has suffered terribly, has been the victim of a targeted murder by determined men who were waiting to kill him,” the press freedom organisation said.

“We feel a mix of distress and outrage,” Reporters Without Borders added. “Bukavu and Sud-Kivu are dangerous places for journalists, who are exposed to both banditry and political score-settling. We know Maheshe had been threatened, and that he feared for his safety and the safety of his family. We undertake to do everything in our power to ensure that his killers are identified and brought to justice.”

(JPEG) According to initial reports, Maheshe was killed by two men in civilian dress carrying Kalashnikov assault rifles as he emerged from a friend’s home in a residential district of Bukavu at about 9 p.m. Accompanied by his friend, Maheshe was about to get into one of the UN-marked vehicles that are used by the station’s journalists when the men ordered them to sit on the ground beside the car. Then one of them shot him two times on his legs and three times in the chest.

Aged 31, Maheshe had worked for Radio Okapi since 2002 and had become one of the region’s leading journalists. Honest, independent and very professional, he had covered all of the crises in the eastern part of the country since the peace accord in 2002, including last year’s general elections. The joint creation of the Swiss foundation Hirondelle and the United Nations Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUC), Radio Okapi has more listeners than any other station in the country.

Reporters Without Borders shares in the grief felt by his wife, his two children, his other relatives and friends and all the staff of Radio Okapi and MONUC.

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