Congo, Democratic Republic of (Kinshasa) | Freedom House

Freedom of the Press

Congo, Democratic Republic of (Kinshasa)

Congo, Democratic Republic of (Kinshasa)

Freedom of the Press 2005

2005 Scores

Press Status

Not Free

Press Freedom Score
(0 = best, 100 = worst)

81

Political Environment
(0 = best, 40 = worst)

31

Economic Environment
(0 = best, 30 = worst)

25

Freedom of expression is limited, although the new constitution contains several articles intended to guarantee free expression, and the government has created a national law reform commission tasked with amending legislation that curtails the media. Tensions escalated in the run-up to national elections scheduled for June 2005, with some political parties attacking one another through the media. Draconian laws dating back to the time of the late dictator Mobutu Sese Seko are still used to censor and jail journalists who anger government officials. Defamation carries a prison sentence of up to five years, and journalists are often jailed as soon as they are accused, under a policy of preventive detention. In January, nine journalists from the state broadcaster, Congolese National Radio-Television, were sentenced to a year in prison without possibility of parole after being found guilty of defamation. The journalists, who were also fined US$2,500 each, had accused former communications and press minister Kikaya bin Karubi of embezzlement. The broadcasting sector is regulated primarily by the High Authority on Media, a body created under the peace accords with the power to suspend radio and television programs that are deemed to have broken the law. Journalists also self-regulate the profession through the Congolese National Press Union and the Observatory of Congolese Media, which issue press credentials and handle ethics complaints.

Despite some statutory protections, independent journalists are frequently threatened, arrested and detained, or attacked by both rebel groups and government officials. In August, national intelligence agents and police raided the offices of Radio Hosanna, an evangelical station in the southern city of Lubumbashi, arresting seven employees and seizing the station's transmission equipment. The employees were freed three days later without charge. The raid followed a sermon broadcast by the station's owner, Pastor Albert Lukusa, accusing the government of corruption and economic mismanagement. A mutiny in June in the town of Bukavu sparked a widely condemned government crackdown on the press, with authorities issuing several directives restricting coverage and jailing at least four journalists. Attackers allegedly led by an army officer severely beat another journalist, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, which conducted an investigation to the area. Rebels also shut down Bukavu's three leading community radio stations and threatened at least four journalists. The Committee to Protect Journalists found that persistent insecurity, especially in the eastern part of the republic, seriously impedes the ability of journalists to do their work and jeopardizes their safety. In areas of the country under tenuous government control, armed groups and local authorities continue to severely restrict press freedom. While many journalists say their working conditions have improved since the peace agreement of 2002, most are still poorly paid and lack adequate training.

Many private broadcasters operate largely without hindrance, but community-based radio stations remain susceptible to political pressures because of excessively high licensing fees. The UN broadcaster Radio Okapi has expanded its coverage of the country to include several local languages. However, the state-run broadcasting network continues to reach the broadest segment of the population. At least 30 independent newspapers are published regularly in Kinshasa and provide a diversity of views, but they are not widely circulated beyond the city. The government does not restrict access to the Internet, but few Congolese can afford the connection costs.