The international charity, Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has called for a swift and transparent investigation into the attacks on Parfait Katoto and Picard Luhavo, two radio journalist working with privately owned radio stations in Congo.
On separate occasions on September 6 and 7, armed men dressed in Congolese military uniforms forced their way into the homes of Katoto, director of Amkeni Biakato community radio station and Luhavo, a reporter with privately owned radio stations, The Voice of Ituri and Mont Bleu.
According to both journalists and Christine Abedito, Ituri’s chapter president of the National Press Union of the Congo (UNPC), the armed men threatened the journalists with death, beat them, and confiscated their work equipment, according to sources.
“Congolese authorities should urgently investigate the separate attacks on journalists Parfait Katoto and Picard Luhavo by armed men who appeared to be members of the military and hold those responsible to account,” said Muthoki Mumo, CPJ’s sub-Saharan Africa representative, in Nairobi.
“Journalists working in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo face enough dangers without worrying that soldiers from their own government may break down their doors and threaten to kill them.”
Ituri and North Kivu have been under military control since May 2021, when Congolese President Félix Antoine Tshisekedi declared a “state of siege” in the two provinces, which placed those areas under military control, according to media reports.
Luhavo and Katoto said the attacks caused body-wide pain and they’d sought treatment at local health centers.
Katoto told CPJ that around 8 p.m. on September 6, two men carrying guns entered the compound where he lives in the city of Biakato while he was watching a football match with a neighbor and accused him of disseminating false information about suspected members of the Maï-Maï rebel group killing government soldiers during an attack on September 5, which another local radio station had reported.
Katoto says he told the intruders that he had not reported on the incident, but they threw him to the ground, stomped on him, and punched him. They also seized his two phones and 12,000 Congolese francs (about US$6). The men said they’d return to kill him if he distributed information deemed favorable to the Maï-Maï.
Katoto said he reported the incident to Selemani Salambongo Mbida, the city chief of Biakato, and that his lawyer had begun to prepare a complaint to be filed to the military’s judicial authority.
CPJ’s calls to Selemani rang without answer.
Separately, Katoto faced similar threats in May 2021, when armed men robbed and threatened to kill him in his home, accusing him of denigrating the Congolese military by broadcasting allegations that soldiers had looted properties in Ituri province.