Sunday, July 09, 2006

DRC Journalist Shot Dead As Election Looms

Sunday July 9, 4:29 AM

DR Congo journalist shot dead as election looms


A local journalist in the Democratic Republic of Congo was shot dead at his home in Kinshasa, the press rights group Journalists in Danger (JED) said, denouncing the killing as an "ignoble crime."

Bapuwa Mwamba, 64, was killed by three armed men who around midnight entered his house in the Matete district where he lived with a nephew, JED said.

The nephew managed to escape and reach the nearest police station, the group added. When he returned he found the journalist bleeding to death from a wound in his left leg. Mwamba died on his way to hospital from a hemorrhage.

Bapuwa Mwamba worked for a number of newspapers in the capital, including the opposition daily Le Phare (the lighthouse).

JED said the murder "did not seem to be an act of chance", coming some three weeks before crucial presidential and legislative elections in the vast central African country.

Mwamba had written about "political intolerance and police
intimidation" in a recent article in Le Phare describing tension ahead of the elections, JED said.

The rights group said the journalist had already been attacked in March by men who stole his computer and telephone as well as some 850 dollars in cash. His killers also took one of his cellphones.

It also noted that this was the second murder of a local journalist in eight months and called on the authorities to carry out a serious investigation.

In the past month another local journalist, Jean-Luc Kinyongo of the weekly Vision, and Roland Brockman, the German correspondent for the Berlin daily Die Welt, have both been wounded in armed attacks.

Two other DRC media groups, the Congo National Press Union and the Congolese Media Observatory, condemned the killing in a statement released Saturday.

"The death threats of which Bapuwa Mwamba was victim have just been made concrete by this ignoble murder," the groups said.

"At this particularly sensitive time in the history of our country" the groups said they "remind the state of the obligation that rests upon it to protect journalists." They also called for an independent investigation.

The Paris-based journalists' rights group Reporters Sans Frontieres (RSF) also condemned the killing, expressing its "consternation" at the deed amid what it termed a "climate of violence" afflicting journalists in DRC.

It called on the DRC government to guarantee the safety of journalists during the elections and urged an inquiry into the killing.

RSF also renewed a call for the killers of another DRC journalist, Franck Kangudu, and his wife Helene Mpaka in November 2005, to be brought to trial.

The murder of Bapuwa Mamba came only hours after foreign ambassadors in Kinshasa issued a statement calling on authorities in DRC to respect the freedom of the press and of opinion ahead of crucial elections.

The international committee accompanying the transition to democracy, known by its French acronym of CIAT, which includes the ambassadors of the five UN Security Council permanent members, warned the DRC's image could suffer otherwise.

The statement followed the expulsion of Ghislaine Dupont, special correspondent for Radio France Internationale (RFI), who was put on a Belgian plane late Monday bound for Brussels.

She was escorted to the flight by special service agents and police officers without having received a written expulsion order, allegedly because she lacked accreditation.

RFI's management said Dupont had carried a journalist's visa and was accredited by the UN mission in the DRC known as MONUC.

Two Rwandan journalists from the British news agency Reuters were refused entry into the country last week.

The July 30 elections are the country's first democratic presidential and parliamentary polls in 45 years and seen as a key step in bringing lasting peace to the war-scarred nation.

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