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YAOUNDE, Cameroon 

The government in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has increasingly cracked down on the media and activist groups during its two years in office, Human Rights Watch said Thursday.

The rights groups said President Felix Tshisekedi’s administration has threatened, arbitrarily arrested and detained and prosecuted dozens of journalists, activists and others deemed critical to the government.

“People in Congo shouldn’t have to fear harassment or arrest for criticizing or peacefully protesting government policy,” said Thomas Fessy, senior Congo researcher at Human Rights Watch.

“Two years on, Tshisekedi’s commitments to respecting rights are starting to sound like broken promises,” said Fessy.

“Once again, condemn[ed] these rights violations,” DRC’s Human Rights Minister Andre Lite told Human Rights Watch. “Whereas freedom should be the principle and detention the exception, we tend to make arrest before investigating in Congo and, unfortunately, detention has become the rule. When a state official, whatever their rank, is responsible for an assault on freedom, they must be questioned and prosecuted.”

Between January and July 2020, HRW documented 39 cases of threats, harassment, and arbitrary arrest and detention related to media freedom, dissent and peaceful protest, according to Human Rights Watch.

The United Nations Joint Human Rights Office (UNJHRO) said Wednesday that it documented 7,909 human rights violations and abuses in DRC, which represents an average of 659 violations per month in 2020. It said the numbers are up 21% from 2019.

Tshisekedi has been in power for two years and has been faced with a political and security crisis.

The resource-rich country has seen an increase in rebel attacks that try to control the country’s minerals resources.

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