Authorities of the Democratic Republic of Congo should thoroughly and transparently investigate and hold accountable those responsible for attacking three journalists — Tatiana Osango, Didier Kiku, and Trésor Bazola — in two separate incidents in September, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Friday.
On September 15, supporters of opposition politician Martin Fayulu, president of the Engagement for Citizenship and Development (Ecidé) political party, grabbed and scratched Tatiana Osango, a reporter with the privately owned YouTube-based news channel Réaco News, on her breasts and other parts of her body and threatened her with rape and death, according to the journalist, who spoke to CPJ via messaging app, and a report by the local press freedom group Journalistes En Danger. The attack took place just after Osango arrived outside the Ecidé headquarters in Kinshasa, DRC’s capital, to cover a meeting related to the parliament’s opening session.
In a separate incident, at around 11 a.m. on September 18, four police officers punched, slapped, and used a belt to hit Didier Kiku and Tésor Bazola, a reporter and a camera operator with the privately owned Tokomi Wapi broadcaster, as they covered demonstrations over the appointment of a new pastor to Kinshasa religious group Evangelical Free Church Africa, according to media reports and the two journalists, who spoke to CPJ by phone.
Bazola was treated at a local hospital for a head injury while Kiku was treated for injuries to his right hand and for chest pain, the two said, adding that their camera was damaged.
“DRC authorities should investigate and hold accountable the opposition supporters who sexually assaulted Tatiana Osango and the police officers who attacked journalists Didier Kiku and Trésor Bazola,” said Muthoki Mumo CPJ’s sub-Saharan Africa representative, in Nairobi. “Attempts to silence the press – whether through gendered attacks or police violence – send a chilling message that journalists are not safe to work in the DRC.”
The supporters who attacked Osango carried machetes, stones, and bottles, said the journalist, who received physiotherapy for pain in her left arm after the incident. She said that they stole her jewelry, press identification, bank cards, and the equivalent of US$700 in cash. The attackers also hit her vehicle with stones and machetes, smashing its windows, according to Osango and footage by local broadcaster Canal Kin Télévision. The mob punched and threw stones at Osango’s driver after he tried to intervene, and he sought treatment at a local hospital for a head injury and body pain.
“Fayulu forbade you to come to Ecidé. Do you want to be raped? Do you think Fayulu is missing the money? Today is your death,” Osango told CPJ the supporters shouted at her. “I am accused on a daily basis by the ruling party of defending the cause of the opponent Fayulu through my various programs and today Fayulu activists are looking for my head and want to rape me. Finally, who do I work for? As a journalist, I do not belong to any political formation or leader. I am for the truth,” Osango said.
“This woman [Osango] just wants to distract us. I don’t know who attacked her and damaged her vehicle,” Ecidé youth president Serge Welo, who was at the scene of the attack, told CPJ via messaging app.
Ecidé Secretary General Devos Kitoko told CPJ via messaging app that he was not in Kinshasa at the time of the attack and “cannot understand why Tatiana Osango would be assaulted at the headquarters of Ecidé since it is almost every week that she comes to the headquarters of our political party to peacefully cover our activities and that day we had no activity,” adding that he thought Osango should have informed him directly of the attack instead of sharing it in the media.
CPJ’s calls to the Provincial Commissioner of the Congolese National Police in Kinshasa, General Sylvano Kasongo, rang unanswered.