World Press Freedom Day: JED is concerned about the rise in censorship against the press and freedom of expression in DR Congo

World Press Freedom Day: JED is concerned about the rise in censorship against the press and freedom of expression in DR Congo
World Press Freedom Day: JED is concerned about the rise in censorship against the press and freedom of expression in DR Congo

On the occasion of the celebration, this Friday, May 3, 2024, of World Press Freedom Day, Reporters Without Borders (RSF), main partner of Journalist in Danger (JED), is releasing its annual ranking of the countries most more at risk for journalists around the world. In total, there are 180 countries whose media ecosystem is analyzed and evaluated concerning, in particular, the normative and institutional framework for the exercise of journalism, freedom of expression and the right of access to public information, independence of public media and the safety of journalists.

For Sadibou Marong, head of RSF’s Africa desk, “the DRC’s timid progress in this year’s ranking should not make us forget the numerous attacks and threats to which journalists have been victims in 2023, particularly ahead of the presidential elections in December 2023, the kidnapping of a journalist and the pressure suffered by the media from the M23 rebels in North Kivu…”

Since the conclusion of the General Press Conference in January 2022 in Kinshasa, the DRC has embarked on the path to reforming the legal framework for the exercise of press freedom by adopting a new law. on the press, namely Ordinance-Law No. 23/009 of March 13, 2023. In addition to the fact that it includes several problematic provisions on the exercise of this freedom and the safety of journalists, this new Law is still not applied and respected concerning, in particular, press offenses, the granting of public aid to the media, the independence of public media or the strengthening of regulation and self-regulation mechanisms, etc.

Despite the commitment of the President of the Republic, Félix Tshisekedi, at the closing of these States General, to support the decriminalization of press offenses and to guarantee the independence of the media, the observation that emerges is that the Congolese journalists and media remain exposed to various pressures and acts of censorship, arbitrary arrests and direct and indirect threats.

As an illustration of the rise in censorship against the press and freedom of expression, JED recalls the arrest for several months and the unjust sentence to six months in prison of journalist Stanis Bujakera, correspondent for Magasine Jeune Afrique, in the case of the assassination of the opponent Chérubin Okende, followed by threats made by the Prosecutor General of the Court of Cassation, against any person, including journalists, who dared to criticize or question the investigation which concluded with suicide from this member of the opposition, to everyone’s amazement.

To this threat which constitutes an act of censorship, JED also recalls the decision of the Superior Council of Audiovisual and Communication (CSAC), of March 29, 2024, prohibiting the media and journalists from processing and disseminating any information on rebel forces without referring to official sources. For professional Congolese media organizations, this decision was taken in violation of the CSAC texts and reveals the partiality of this regulatory body, one of whose essential missions is to protect press freedom.

For JED, the multiplication of acts and declarations criminalizing journalists and calling into question freedom of expression recorded since the start of Tshisekedi’s new mandate, reflects a political will to shrink the spaces for freedom of expression for the media. free and independent, while a standoff is looming between the Power of Kinshasa and the Catholic Church which denounces attacks on freedom of expression, following legal action in progress against the Archbishop of Kinshasa , Cardinal Fridolin Ambongo, accused by the Congolese justice system of “advocating rebellion; inciting populations to revolt against established institutions during his press briefings and interviews in the media”.

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