DRC: JED condemns a new hard blow against Freedom of Information

Journalist in Danger (JED) and Reporters Without Borders (RWB) demand the immediate release of Erick Izami, a journalist with Antenna A, held illegally for more than 24 hours by the National Intelligence Agency (ANR) for attending a Press conference run by of human rights activists.

The Congolese private channel journalist was arrested by the ANR on March 15, 2015 in the afternoon while covering the launch of a new group of civil society in Kinshasa. He has since been held in the dungeons of the ANR illegally.

Three other journalists from the international press, Federico Scoppa, an AFP photographer, a correspondent for the Belgian Radio and Television (RTBF) and a BBC cameraman were also along with the Congolese Private Radio journalist and taken to the premises of the ANR where they were held for several hours before being released. Their mobile phones were confiscated.

All of them were covering an exchange meeting organised by human rights activists from Congo, Senegal and Burkina Faso for the launch of Filimbi group (Whistles) on the theme  “civic engagement” and peaceful protest.

JED and RWB condemn this brutal arrest and intrusion of intelligence to prevent journalists from doing their job. The arrest and detention of media professionals in full performance of their duties are a flagrant violation of freedom of information. More importantly, preventing a debate and a dialogue on new ways of organising civil society is an act of intolerable censorship as the DRC must be preparing, as much as possible, for a future electoral timetable. This arbitrary act of authoritarianism reflects the tension and fear of the Congolese authorities for every possible public debate.

JED and RWB urge authorities of the ANR, government security agencies and the media to ensure the immediate and unconditional release and Erick Izami and to put an end to intimidation of the media in the DRC.

Several organisers of the rally were also arrested. Among them are dozens of Congolese Filimbi, the new movement and a representative of the movement Balais Citoyen of Burkina Faso, Oscibi Johann and Fadel Barro, coordinator of the movement Y en a Marre of Senegal. These two movements were involved in implementing political transitions in their countries.

When interviewed by the BBC in the night of the arrests, Lambert Mende, the government spokesperson, said the arrested participants were “military instructors who were preparing an insurrection.”

In recent months, the Congolese government has been noted for censorship and acts of intimidation against the media.