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Congo June 8, 2005
Office of the President
Palais de la Nation
Democratic Republic of Congo
Fax: (011.243.81) 02120
We write to express our grave concern over recent disturbing events affecting journalists in the Democratic Republic of Congo — specifically death threats against members of Journaliste en Danger (JED), and the abduction of six Congolese journalists by Mai Mai militiamen. As a non-partisan organization dedicated to preserving freedom of expression in the media, we view these incidents as a chilling reminder of the serious threats to press freedom that exist in your country.
The death threats, which included the families of the journalists targeted, contained words designed to intimidate reporters and stifle their right of free expression. “We would like to inform you that the hour of repentance is near,” read the e-mailed death threat. It was signed “Commander Mbonge Munene,” which, as you are aware, translates into “violent wind.” Since they have been maligned and harassed in the past, the men who received the ominous missive — JED secretary-general, Tshivis Tshivuadi , and JED president, Donat M’baya Tshimanga — believe the letter is part of a pattern of intimidation against their organization. Interestingly, the latest threat came one day after Tshivuadi alleged in an interview on Radio France Internationale that Demcratic Republic of Congo politicians were seeking to control local broadcasters during preparations for June’s general elections.
With regard to the abducted journalists, no official reason has been forthcoming. However, it is suspected that it may have been in retaliation for the recent arrest of Mai Mai militia commander, Chinja Chinja. The commander has been charged with human rights abuses against citizens of the Upper Lomani District, an area the journalists were visiting to cover the disarmament of armed militias.
If the journalists have not been released at this writing, we urge you to do all in your power to see that this occurs. We also call on you to thoroughly investigate the death threats against the JED’s staff and to ensure that these journalists can continue their work of defending press freedom.
Norman A. Schorr
Freedom of the Press Committee
Faida Maramuke Mitifu
Ambassador of the D.R. of Congo to the U.S.A.
Embassy of the Democratic Republic of Congo
1800 New Hampshire Avenue, NW
Washington , DC 20009
Fax: (202) 234-2609
Ambassador Ileka Atoki
Permanent Mission of the Democratic Republic of Congo
to the United Nations
866 United Nations Plaza , Suite 511
New York , NY 10017
Fax: (212) 319-8232
Roger A. Meece
U. S. Ambassador to the Democratic Republic of Congo
Embassy of the United States of America
310 Avenue des Aviateurs
Comune de la Gombe
Dem. Rep. of Congo
Fax: (011.243.81) 39-02-12