A journalist who fled Burundi after the attempted coup against President Pierre Nkurunziza on May 13 is being held by authorities in the Democratic Republic of Congo, without charges.
According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) Egide Mwemero, who works for Radio Publique Africaine, was arrested in Uvira in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo on October 13 after fleeing from Burundi following violence that erupted when President Nkuruunziza announced he would run for a third ‘unconstitutional’ term.
In a release earlier today the CPJ says Mwemero was arrested together with two Congolese reporters, Manzambi Mupenge and Lucien Kanana, who work with local community station Radio le Messager du Peuple, which had partnered with Mwemero’s station to broadcast the latter’s show, ‘Humura Burundi’ on its airwaves. Mupenge and Kanana were released two days later, but the Congolese station that was airing the show was ordered by the authorities to stop broadcasting it on October 9.
‘Unrest in Burundi earlier this year, in which several radio station were forced off air and had equipment damaged, forced Radio Publique Africaine to stop broadcasting from Burundi,’ the CPJ says in the release, and adds that Bob Rugurika, the managing director of Radio Publique Africaine had confirmed that Mwemero was still in custody.
“Radio is a vital information source for people in this region and journalists should be allowed to do their jobs,” said CPJ Africa Program Coordinator Sue Valentine. She added: “We are extremely concerned that Egide Mwemero is being held without any public disclosure of charges against him and we urge Democratic Republic of Congo authorities to release him immediately.”
According to reports DRC President Joseph Kabila, who is himself trying to vouch for a third unconstitutional term and participate in the elections in November 2016, has maintained good relations with Burundi.
‘Journalists in the Democratic Republic of Congo are often faced with a hostile environment, and the government has attacked press freedom in an effort to silence critics or dissenting opinions, the CPJ says. In January, authorities briefly blocked Internet and cellphone service throughout the country; in March during a pro-democracy rally, government forces arrested about 30 individuals, several of whom were journalists covering the protest and some of whom reported being assaulted’ the CPJ release adds.
The journalists’’ rights lobby group says efforts to get comments about the arrest of Mwemero from the DRC ministers for communications, human rights, and justice were futile.