DR Congo

Reporter for U.N. radio shot dead in eastern Congo

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By David Lewis

KINSHASA, Nov 22 (Reuters) - A journalist working for a U.N.-backed radio station in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo was shot dead on Friday night, the radio station and a spokesman for the U.N. peacekeeping force said.

He was the second Radio Okapi reporter to be killed in the South Kivu provincial capital Bukavu in the past 18 months.

"Once again a Radio Okapi journalist has been killed in Bukavu. Didace Namujimbo was killed by a shot to the head by unknown assailants on Friday night near his home," Radio Okapi said on its website on Saturday.

Kevin Kennedy, a U.N. spokesman in the capital Kinshasa, said he had no indication who may have killed Namujimbo.

"We don't know what the circumstances were. He was returning to his house last night and we understand he was shot dead," Kennedy said.

Radio Okapi, named after a rare zebra-like animal found in Congo's vast forests, was set up with U.N. help to promote access to information as part of efforts to end a regional war that engulfed the huge country from 1998-2003.

A peace deal to end the fighting led to elections and the withdrawal of six foreign armies dragged into the war.

But fighting between the chaotic national army and rival militias, including fighters from neighbouring Rwanda and Uganda, has continued in eastern parts of Congo, including at times in South Kivu which lies on the Rwandan border.

Recent months have seen heavier fighting in neighbouring North Kivu province, where renegade Tutsi rebel leader Laurent Nkunda launched an offensive late last month against the provincial capital Goma and other towns.

Nkunda has pulled his Tutsi fighters back from frontline positions in recent days after talks with a U.N. mediator but is consolidating his power in some of the towns he captured early in the offensive.

Paris-based press freedom watchdog Reporters Sans Frontieres ranks the former Belgian colony in the bottom 15 percent of countries worldwide in terms of media freedom.

"Political tensions run high and the media, often dependent on parties competing for power and unscrupulous businessmen, are frequently targets of sometimes deadly score-settling," the group said in its 2008 annual report on Congo.

(Reporting by David Lewis and Alistair Thomson; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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