Women journalists in eastern DR Congo now have improved legal support thanks to a grant to the Collectif des Femmes Journalistes from the Global Media Defence Fund (GMDF), a fund that was initiated and continues to be supported by members of the Media Freedom Coalition.
The Collectif des Femmes Journalistes (CFJ) aims to protect women journalists in North Kivu, DR Congo, from threats, physical attacks and arrest. The GMDF has enabled the organisation to set up a legal unit that specialises in providing legal support to women journalists who are threatened or arrested in the course of their work.
The organisation has also created a network of journalists trained to identify attacks on women journalists in North Kivu. The network facilitates, monitors and investigates assaults on women journalists, and lobbies the authorities.
In the run up to International Women’s Day 2023, the MFC Secretariat spoke to Rose Kahambu Tuombeane, a founding member of CFJ, to learn more about this work.
“The network has made it possible to document around thirty cases of assault on women journalists,” said Rose. “These alerts were then analysed by the lawyers who are members of the legal unit, which proposes actions to be taken to help the victims according to the extent of the case. After legal consultations for each case, we were able to provide legal assistance to 20 women journalists.”
Rose cited the example of a radio journalist who was forced to give up her job after receiving threats for covering demonstrations against the killings of protestors. CFJ, in collaboration with the network Réseau des Journalistes d’Investigation autour des Agressions contre les Femmes Journalistes (REJIAFJ), successfully campaigned for her reinstatement.
Rose said: “I want to see a peaceful North Kivu where journalists in general, and women journalists in particular, work in freedom and the population has access to the information it needs at the right time. I want to see a North Kivu where women journalists also use more and more new technologies, including the internet, so that what happens in the province is known to the world.”
Rose hopes International Women’s Day will focus attention on DR Congo and, in particular, the area of North Kivu. Rose says anyone in this region – not just women journalists – can be subjected to threats, intimidation and stigmatisation by the police, military, administrative and judicial authorities – or rebel forces active in the area.
The Global Media Defence Fund, administered by UNESCO, aims to bolster legal protection and enhance media freedom through investigative journalism and strategic litigation. The fund was established in 2019 alongside the MFC itself, and as of the end of 2022 the fund has committed $2.7 million to over 80 projects.
In its International Women’s Day statement, the Media Freedom Coalition called on states to “end the repression and targeting of women journalists and to combat egregious sexual and gender-based violence and commit to the protection of women journalists and media workers, both offline and online, and defend their ability to carry out their work in safety.”