Unesco calls for justice over DRC journalist murder

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Irina Bokova Director General of UNESCO speaks on September 18, 2016 in New York City.

KINSHASA – Unesco director-general Irina Bokova on Monday urged authorities in Democratic Republic of Congo to bring the murderers of a television journalist to justice.

Marcel Lubala was killed at his home in Mbuji-Mayi, central DR Congo, on the night of 14-15 November by armed men. The 59-year-old had worked for the RTNC MbujiMayi television channel that is part of state broadcaster RTNC.

"I condemn the murder of Marcel Lubala. Journalists must be able to do their work informing citizens without fearing for their lives," said Bokova in a statement published in Paris.

"I trust the authorities will conduct a thorough investigation and that those responsible for this crime will be brought to justice."

According to local authorities in the Kasai-Oriental province, where Mbuji-Mayi is located, an investigation has been opened into the murder and five people have been arrested.

But various charities and media rights organisations decried the fact that the murder took place during a curfew between 10pm and 5am, when local security forces were supposed to be in control of the town.

Following the murder, local activists Journalists in Danger (JED) denounced "the increase in targeted attacks against the press".

Joseph Tshilunde, president of the national union of Congolese media (UNPC), told AFP that Lubala was the "16th journalist killed in DRC in 10 years and too often the perpetrators and organisers are not sanctioned".

READ: One journalist killed every 4.5 days, says UNESCO

DR Congo has been wracked by recent violence sparked by a political crisis brought on by the postponing of a presidential election that had been due to take place before the end of the year.

President Joseph Kabila has been in power since 2001 when he succeeded his father, Laurent Kabila, who had been assassinated.

Joseph Kabila is constitutionally barred from standing for re-election having served two terms but his opponents are worried the election postponement is part of a wider bid to hold onto power.

Anti-Kabila protests have been suppressed by police while authorities have used various means to clamp down on the press.

Kabila's government has frequently blocked the signal of foreign media such as Radio France International any time opposition supporters have organised protests.

Ten days ago, the government also issued a decree that gave foreign broadcasters a month to hand over a majority share of their companies to locals, a move criticised by the United Nations.

Reporters Without Borders classed DRC 152nd out of 180 countries for press freedom in 2016.

Lubala had worked for RTNC for 15 years, presenting a television show about hygiene and the environment.