Reporters Without Borders protested today to officials in a rebel-controlled area of the Democratic Republic of Congo about their ban on the BBC’s correspondent in the country, Arnaud Zajtman.
"This is a serious obstruction of press freedom and a working journalist," said Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard in a letter to Adolphe Onusumba, president of the rebel group, the Congolese Rally for Democracy (RCD), which controls the eastern region of Kivu, where rebel leader Patrick Masunzu is fighting government troops.
"It seems to be retaliation by the local authorities because they did not like his earlier reporting," he said, calling for the ban to be lifted.
Zajtman had obtained verbal permission from the RCD’s secretary-general and its information officer to go to the rebel area to report, but then got an e-mail from the head of the information department on 16 July forbidding him to do so and saying that "your offensive references to our President and the contempt and disrespect you have shown for our Leadership oblige me to withdraw my permission."
Zajtman said the ban was probably linked to his report, broadcast on 26 May, that the rebels had massacred about 200 people in Kisangani. Just before the report went out on the BBC’s Africa service, he received threats from Onusumba who warned that if it was broadcast, he would see that he never reported again from the rebel-controlled areas.
Reporters Without Borders notes that the RCD continues to harass the few media that try to retain some independence. The rebels’ intelligence service arrested Wema Kennedy, head of Radio Muungano, on 7 March for having announced on the air that Onusumba was still in Kampala as the inter-Congolese negotiations were opening at Sun City, in South Africa.