Radio Svein reporter and presenter Hassan Murhabazi was found by passers-by in Bukavu, the capital of Sud-Kivu province, yesterday evening after being missing for two and a half days. No one had heard from him since he left his Bukavu home on the morning of 11 September after receiving an anonymous call.
Radio Svein’s director told RSF that he managed to speak with Murhabazi for a few minutes before he was taken to hospital for a medical examination, and described him as being in a “state of shock.” “It was an abduction,” the radio station director said. “His abductors ordered him to say nothing and told him he would not get a second chance.”
Murhabazi hosts “Mkate,” a show known for providing critical coverage of political developments. The show’s latest broadcast, on 9 September, was partly dedicated to ruling party presidential candidate Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, President Joseph Kabila’s designated successor.
The next day, on the eve of his abduction, Murhabazi received several threatening texts saying that Shadary should be “left alone.”
“We are relieved to learn that Hassan Murhabazi has been found alive, but the Congolese authorities need to appreciate the gravity of this journalist’s abduction and the threats made against him,” said Arnaud Froger, the head of RSF’s Africa desk.“As tension mounts with three months to go to a presidential election that was delayed for two years, the authorities must guarantee Murhabazi’s safety and must open an investigation to identify his abductors. They have a duty to protect all journalists so that a political debate can take place in the run-up to the election.”
According to RSF’s tally, journalists were the victims of a total of 22 attacks and 35 arrests during the first eight months of 2018, with most of these arrests being carried out in a completely illegal manner. Two Bukavu journalists had to flee their homes in July after receiving death threats in connection with their documentary about villagers being evicted from land claimed by President Joseph Kabila.
The DRC is ranked 154th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2018 World Press Freedom Index.