- A large group of Congolese journalists, who had travelled to the war ravaged North Kivu and Rwanda, was banned from publishing interviews they had made with Rwanda's President as they returned to Kinshasa. Congo government officials deplored that the journalist had been "shamelessly manipulated by the Kigali government."
From 20 to 24 December, a group of 11 journalists from various Kinshasa-based, privately-owned newspapers carried out a mission to Goma, capital of North Kivu province, to report on the armed conflict that rages in eastern Congo Kinshasa (DRC). The group also requested and was granted interviews with Rwandan authorities, including Foreign Minister Charles Morigande and President Paul Kagame.
On their return to Kinshasa, however, the journalists, along with their editors, were summoned by the media regulation authority (Haute Autorité des Médias, HAM). Some of managing editors were also summoned by the national intelligence agency (l'Agence Nationale des Renseignements, ANR), according to reports from the Kinshasa-based media watchdog group Journaliste en Danger (JED).
The journalists reported to JED that they were able to ask both the Rwandan authorities and provincial authorities in North Kivu province "whatever questions they pleased" on the conflict and relations between the Congo and Rwanda. Rwanda has been accused of deploying troops in North Kivu by the Kinshasa government and UN peacekeepers, but strongly denies these allegations.
In a 26 December press release, Congo's Information Minister Henri Mova Sakanyi expressed his profound indignation at "the humiliation suffered by certain journalists, [who have been] shamelessly manipulated by the Kigali government." The Minister further claimed that the mission was "in violation of the laws governing the entry and exit of Congolese citizens, particularly journalists, from national territory."
Information Minister Sakanyi went on to say that it was "regrettable and unacceptable for the Congolese press to act as a stepping stone [to Rwandan authorities] by spreading [their] propaganda, at a time when Rwandan troops are on Congolese soil sowing misery and death among our fellow citizens in the east."
The Minister ended his December press release by calling on the Congolese press to "demonstrate clear-headedness and patriotism [in its reporting] and to join the government and their fellow citizens in [their] efforts to restore sovereignty and peace to" Congo Kinshasa.
The Congolese press freedom group JED late last week condemned what it called "government attempts to confine press to a 'Congolese gulag'." The Kinshasa group expressed its serious concern over the uproar caused by the journalists' mission to Rwanda and by "the thinly-veiled threats directed at them as a result."
- Contrary to the Minister's claims, JED has documentation which proves that the journalists who went to Goma and Kigali did not violate any laws governing Congolese journalists' entry to and exit from national soil, JED said in its statement. The targeted journalists had done "nothing wrong," and there was nothing to prohibit a journalist from a country at war with another to enter "enemy" territory to gather information, the group held.
JED added that, "since arms have failed to resolve the conflict between the Congo and Rwanda, dialogue must now be allowed to succeed, with the Congolese and Rwandan media playing a major role this regard." Kinshasa state and private media on many earlier occasions have contributed to paint a picture of Rwanda as a savage enemy, calling for stronger war efforts.
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