New York, April 6, 2010—Following Monday’s murder of freelance cameraman Patient Chebeya in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Committee to Protect Journalists called for a renewed commitment from the government to solidly investigate and prosecute those who kill journalists.
Armed men in military uniforms jumped Chebeya, at left, around 10 p.m. as his wife let him in his house in the volatile eastern city of Beni, according to local press freedom group Journaliste En Danger (JED).
JED quoted Chebeya’s wife as saying that the gunmen seized her husband’s valuables, including mobile phones, videotapes, and money, and told him they had come to kill him. Several bullets, fired at blank-point range, killed the journalist.
The Associated Press, citing a senior police officer in Beni, today reported
the arrest of two soldiers. The local press decreed two days of a media
blackout to protest the killing, journalists told CPJ, adding that the motive behind
the murder remained unclear. CPJ is investigating unconfirmed reports that
Chebeya had reported receiving threats from a group of soldiers, while
determining whether his assassination was related to his journalism.
Chebeya was the fifth journalist CPJ has recorded killed
since 1992 in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, where the absence of
effective law enforcement has led to flawed investigations and prosecutions of
journalists’ murders, according to CPJ research.
“We are shocked by the brutal killing of Patient Chebeya and
offer our condolences to his family, friends, and colleagues,” said CPJ Africa
Program Coordinator Tom Rhodes. “Local
authorities have a history of failing to investigate and successfully prosecute
the killings of journalists. They must not fail again.”
The mayor of Beni announced
that a military tribunal would try the suspects within 48 hours, according to
local journalists. Military tribunals have asserted authority over such cases
on the basis that there were either soldiers involved in the murders or crimes
had been committed with so-called “weapons of war,” but that authority has been
challenged by human rights lawyers who say journalist murder cases should be
tried by civilian, independent courts. The trial in Beni
would overlap with the proceedings of another military
tribunal in Bukavu trying soldiers and civilians charged in connection with
the 2008 murder of reporter Didace Namujimbo.
Jacques Kikuni, a local journalist who spoke to CPJ, was
among dozens of people who packed a cemetery in Beni
today for the funeral of Chebeya, 35, who was a father of four. Kikuni, who
knew Chebeya since 1998, said the late cameraman excelled in filming and
reporting, and covered municipal and provincial officials. He was on his way
home after he had finished editing footage from the weekend visit of a customs
official when he was killed, Kikuni said.