The Commissioner in charge of monitoring the human rights situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the Honourable Commissioner Marie Louise Abomo and the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa, the Honourable Commissioner Jamesina Essie L. King (the Rapporteurs), in the framework of the provisions of Article 45.2 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the African Charter, have learned with dismay of the murder on the night of Friday to Saturday 14 August 2021 of journalist Joël Musavuli, in the North-East of the DRC, in Ituri.
The rapporteurs were informed that the journalist, who had already been living in hiding with eight other journalists since November 2019 because of threats made against them by armed groups, was shot dead by unidentified gunmen. He was reportedly stabbed in the ribs and neck. It is also reported that his wife, who was severely wounded with a machete, eventually succumbed to her injuries. According to various credible sources, this fatal attack followed threats against journalist Joël Musavuli because of his programme "Rahiya Tufungule Macho" (let us open our eyes, people) of 26 June, which analysed the evolution of the state of siege and the harmful effects of armed groups.
The Rapporteurs also note that the late Joel Musavuli is not the first journalist to suffer this fate in the region. It is therefore with great concern that they appeal to the DRC government to take urgent measures to ensure the safety and physical integrity of journalists and their families, especially those who are most at risk according to the available facts.
While denouncing these barbaric attacks against innocent people who are simply exercising their rights and fulfilling their obligation to make information available to the population, the Rapporteurs remind the State that freedom of expression and freedom of opinion are guaranteed by the African Charter, to which the DRC is a State Party, and certain other complementary instruments. More specifically, this attack comes in an international context where attacks of this type are subject to particular attention from relevant actors to the extent that since 2013, the United Nations has established 2nd November as the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists.
The Commission wishes to reiterate Principle 20 of the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa, which states the following:
(2) States shall take measures to prevent attacks on journalists and other media practitioners, including murder, extra-judicial killing, torture and other forms of ill-treatment, arbitrary arrest and detention, enforced disappearance, kidnapping, intimidation, threats and unlawful surveillance undertaken by State and non-State actors; and
(4) States shall take effective legal and other measures to investigate, prosecute and punish perpetrators of attacks against journalists and other media practitioners, and ensure that victims have access to effective remedies.
The Commission equally wishes to reiterate the provisions of Resolution 468 on the safety of journalists and media professionals in Africa which stipulates that States shall:
(1) Take all necessary measures to uphold their obligations under the African Charter and other international and regional instruments providing for the right to freedom of expression and access to information, and implement the principles in the Declaration;
(2) Ensure the safety of journalists and other media professionals, and create a conducive environment for them to practice their profession;
(9) Investigate, prosecute and punish perpetrators of attacks against journalists and other media practitioners, ensure that victims have access to effective remedies and take specific measures to ensure the safety of female journalists and media practitioners by addressing gender-specific safety concerns.
In that regard, the Rapporteurs therefore urge the State to open neutral and impartial investigations without delay to elucidate the circumstances of these killings and others if they have not already been done, so that the perpetrators can be held accountable for their actions. They also urge the State to ensure that the human rights, namely the rights to life, physical integrity, freedom of expression and opinion of journalists and human rights defenders are respected.
The Rapporteurs offer their deepest condolences to the families of the victims and remain seized of the human rights situation in the DRC.