UN Forces Evacuate Journalists As Rebels Advance Further In DR Congo

Dozens of journalists are trapped in the area, hiding from the rebels and unable to operate, say the United Nations stabilisation mission.

The United Nations announced that it is evacuating journalists from towns that are at risk of being overtaken by the fighting in Eastern Congo.

Rebels from the M23 group are advancing on several towns in the region. On the Ugandan side of the border there are also towns at threat of takeover by Ugandan rebels.

So far 12 journalists had been airlifted out, the Organisation Stabilisation Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO) said on Nov 1. 

“MONUSCO has evacuated by helicopter, twelve journalists from Rutshuru towards Goma this Monday October 31, 2022 following the deterioration of the security situation”, the MONUSCO announced, adding that “twelve other journalists in Rutshuru territory would be evacuated by MONUSCO from Kiwanja towards Goma”.

After several weeks of relative calm, fighting resumed between the DR Congo national army, FARDC and M23 rebels on Oct 20.

Last Saturday, October 29, the M23 rebels captured the towns of Kiwanja and Rutshuru Centre, situated on the number 2 national highway which is a strategic hub serving Goma, chief town of North Kivu province. In June, M23 captured the very important town of Bunagana on the Ugandan border.

In a series of recent utterances, MONUSCO noted that the Director of Radio RACOM, the voice of Mikeno, a local radio station has seen two of his technicians flee on foot, trekking for 34 kilometres in seven hours, to reach the MONUSCO base in Kiwanja adding that Radio RACOM had earlier been looted by M23 rebels on July 14.

Interviewed by journalists on Monday October 31, the DR Congo Minister of Communication and Medias, Patrick Muyaya, who doubles as government spokesperson, said he had spoken to several journalists “blocked in Kiwanja” who had “switched off their equipment because they were targeted by the M23”.

“Out of twenty journalists, we have succeeded in bringing twelve to Goma”, the minister declared adding that “we shall continue to follow the situation with MONUSCO in order to be sure that the journalists are secure and continue to do their work”.

“Refusing journalists from operating is killing the freedom of the press”, Patrick Muyaya said.

Meanwhile, in Geneva, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Turk, who yesterday expressed disquiet over the degradation of the situation in the region, has called on the Congolese authorities to take the necessary measures “to protect the journalists and other professionals of the media, some of whom have declared having been threatened and harassed since the resumption of hostilities with the aim of influencing their reporting”.

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Chief Bisong Etahoben

Chief Bisong Etahoben is a Cameroonian investigative journalist and traditional ruler. He writes for international media and has participated in several transnational investigations. Etahoben won the first-ever Cameroon Investigative Journalist Award in 1992. He serves as a member of a number of international investigative journalism professional bodies including the Forum for African Investigative Reporters (FAIR). He is HumAngle's Francophone and Central Africa editor.

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