New Publication Presents Legal Tools for Defense of Press Freedom in DRC

Internews has published a brochure in French — Protecting Freedom of Press and Expression in DR Congo: Legal Bases and Roles of the Judiciary, by Charles Mushizi with Paul Nkuadio and Karim Benard-Dende — presenting the various legal tools for the defense of press freedom in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) for judges and lawyers.

Since 2011, Internews has worked with professional media organizations, associations of lawyers, human rights defenders, the Parliament (National Assembly and Senate), the public regulator, and the Superior Council for Audiovisual and Communication for the improvement of the legal environment in the DRC.

However, judges continue to condemn journalists, most often on legal grounds derived from a repressive Penal Code and not on the more liberal provisions of the media laws. In addition, there are still some “anomalies” that are draconian in the press law. In fact, in the case of a defamation complaint, the law does not consider the quality of the journalist’s investigative work or the truth of the facts, but the damage caused by these revelations to the person concerned in the practices who is denounced by the journalist.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, Internews published this handbook on legal provisions that enables magistrates and lawyers to protect press freedom and freedom of speech in the media. In most cases opened against journalists and media outlets, magistrates base procedures and trials on provisions listed in the restrictive penal code. Moreover, the Congolese media legal framework still includes some restrictive bugs from the Mobutu regime’s period such as the definition of defamation. In a case of defamation complaint, the law does not consider the accuracy of facts described in a report nor the quality of the investigative work of the journalist, but only the prejudice caused by the publication or the broadcasting of the report.

Internews produced this handbook with the objective of a discussion between media professionals’ organizations, media lawyers and magistrates on the means and methods to protect press freedom, which is guaranteed by the 2006 Constitution, in a context of closing of the political space. A first Conference was organized with the High Council of Magistracy (Conseil Supérieur de la Magistrature) in Kinshasa on February 28 and March 1, then 15 other workshops were organized in the 8 main cities throughout 2017: 150 magistrates of 298 participants attended the workshops.

These activities are supported by the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs and complementary funding from USAID.