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DRC Government Defends Press Freedom, Says Official

An unidentified journalist from an opposition television station is detained and roughed up by police while covering an opposition protest in Kinshasa, Congo on Thursday, Sept. 1, 2011.

The government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo says it supports press freedom by ensuring journalists are protected from attacks ahead of the November 28 general elections.

Information Minister Lambert Mende condemned previous assaults and said the government has launched an “official” investigation into violence against journalists.

“We have deployed some policemen and security personnel to try to give them more security,” said Mende.

The move comes as some political parties have expressed concern their opponents are breaking electoral rules by launching campaigns far ahead of the official starting date, October 28.

Observers warn of the increasing potential for violence between supporters of political rivals in the next few weeks.

Mende warned against retribution by partisans of political parties.

“Members of the opposition attacked the headquarters of the party of the president. It seems that maybe members of the presidential party went to retaliate. We condemn [the violence] absolutely,” said Mende. “We have asked the judiciary to inquire about both incidents, because we can’t accept that a political party be attacked, and we can’t accept that press enterprises be attacked.”

He adds that thousands of police officers are being trained to protect civilians.

“We have even tried to restructure, train [and reinforce] six battalions of police in order to help secure citizens, secure candidates and secure the electoral commission during the elections,” said Mende.

Kinshasa has signed a memorandum of understanding with the United Nations Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO) for it to provide support to the electoral commission organizing the vote.

Mende says Kinshasa is pleased with its working relationship with the UN mission.

“We are really enjoying the assistance that we are getting from MONUSCO. They are helping in dispatching materials countryside.”