The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is demanding speedy investigations by the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC ) government into threats made against three female radio reporters in the eastern city of Bukavu, writes Dennis Itumbi for journalism.co.za.
Delphie Namuto and Caddy Adzuba of U.N.-sponsored broadcasting network Radio Okapi and Jolly Kamuntu of local station Radio Maendeleo were subjects of an anonymous text message sent to Namuto’s Cell Phone.
The text read in part, “You have a bad habit of interfering in what does not concern you to show that you are untouchable.”
It read on, “Now, some of you will die so that you shut up. We’ve just been authorized to start with Kadi (Caddy), then Kamuntu, then Namuto.”
The text concluded with a chilly warning on how the deaths would be executed, with “a bullet to the head”.
The threats come against a backdrop of increasing violence and intimidationjust two weeks after the murder of radio journalist Bruno Koko Chirambiza.
The South Kivu’s Association of Women Journalists (AFEM), the Congolese National Press Union, and the Network of Radio and Television Broadcasters of eastern Congo known as RATECO have since filed a complaint to the police.
Adzuba said she has received four menacing calls. She said she believed the caller has been tracking her movements using a hidden number.
On Thursday, she picked up a call from a local number. The caller said nothing, but held up the phone so she could hear the live radio broadcast of her station, she said.
The threats have not been linked to any specific news item, according to Jacqueline Chenard, bureau chief of Radio Okapi in Bukavu.
Speaking with CPJ on Thursday, Bukavu police superintendent Col. Christian Shadiki Shamavu said he was not aware of the threats but would talk to the journalists.
Shamavu told CPJ that the area has had a proliferation of armed groups circulating at night.
Bukavu has become one of the most dangerous cities for journalists in Africa, CPJ Africa Program Coordinator Tom Rhodes in a press statement.
Authorities should do everything in their power to protect these journalists and end a long pattern of violence and intimidation against the press, he said.
Kamuntu, who heads AFEM, produces a weekly program called Sheria Ni Dawa (Justice is a Remedy), which is broadcast on 35 stations in eastern Congo. The program has covered sexual violence issues since June, she said.
Radio Okapi journalists, like other journalists in Bukavu, do not feel safe because of persistent insecurity. Its not only journalists, but also human rights defenders who are targeted, said Chenard of the Radio Okapis bureau in Bukavu.
Government Spokesman Lambert Mende, reached on the phone by journalism.co.za, said that the government was interested in enhancing freedom of speech and that the threats must have come from militia groups operating in the region.
“We are not in the business of sending fear among journalists, but those responsible must be stopped.”
When asked to comment on the slow approach to investigations on cases facing journalists, he was non-committal saying, “we will ensure that responsible journalism is protected.”