Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

International Justice/ICC: Jun ‘08

ICC project announces plans for new international justice radio show to be broadcast throughout DRC.
By IWPR staff
A new IWPR fortnightly radio show, Facing Justice, to be broadcast across the Democratic Republic of Congo, DRC, will aim to increase public understanding of developments at the International Criminal Court, ICC, in the DRC.

The 15-minute programme – to be produced in partnership with NGO Search for Common Ground – will be broadcast in Lingala, Swahili and French on a bi-weekly basis throughout the DRC.

The IWPR team is also working on broadening access to the materials it gathers for use in the Facing Justice programme by placing sound clips on its website.

The show was conceived after the project team spent time networking with journalists and editors in Uganda, Sudan and the DRC. Traveling throughout these countries – which all have nationals indicted before the ICC – confirmed that radio is a highly effective medium for the dissemination of news and information.

The progamme will draw on contributions from Hague-based staff, IWPR-trained journalists in the DRC, legal experts, civil society, political analysts, human rights activists and government representatives.

Search for Common Ground staff, who will also contribute material, plan to conduct regular monitoring of listeners and to establish a series of focus groups to assess the impact of the show.

Its launch was planned to coincide with the start of the ICC’s first case in The Hague – that of Congolese war crimes suspect Thomas Lubanga on June 23.

But the case against the Ituri militia leader collapsed after judges ruled on June 13 that prosecutors had abused the rules of collecting evidence, making a fair trial impossible.

As a result, we have suspended the launch of our programme, and are waiting to hear whether judges will accept an appeal from prosecutors which could lead the trial to resume.

This month, Stephanie Wolters, producer of the Facing Justice programme, traveled to The Hague to finalise plans for the production of the programme in conjunction with Hague-based staff.

While in The Hague, Wolters and the international justice team met Sonia Robla, the director of ICC outreach, and Violeta Curcic-Williamson, the ICC coordinator for broadcasting who is working to produce regular information bulletins about the court’s activities.

The discussion focused on how best to coordinate coverage of the ICC so as to avoid overlap and have the maximum impact in the DRC, and IWPR and the ICC outreach team are in close contact on these matters.

While waiting for further news on the Lubanga case, the project has been working hard to build up our team of journalists for Facing Justice.

Congolese journalism graduate Julia Illondo will present the programme in French and Lingala. Julia, who recently completed her journalism studies at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, has experience working for the Radio Television National Congolaise, RTNC. Recruitment for a Swahili-speaking presenter is ongoing.

Jacques Kahorha, a correspondent for IWPR based in Goma, recently spent two weeks in Bunia and outlying areas gathering material for Facing Justice.

Kahorha’s time there coincided with news of the suspension of the Lubanga trial, and he was able to gather many diverse opinions and reactions to this latest development, which will provide rich material for the first edition of Facing Justice.

Lena Slachmuijlder, director of Search for Common Ground in the DRC, explained the programme was important because information on ICC proceedings is so limited in the country.

“It is very important to give out correct information to establish the impartiality of the ICC in the eyes of the Congolese, because it is not evident that it has that credibility,” she said.

Slachmuijlder said that the delay in the Lubanga case had been hard for Congolese people to understand and that many had interpreted this as a signal the court was a political body.

“The collaboration with IWPR will help us bring out credible voices from the ICC to give information to the people in a regular way, so they can understand what is happening with the trial, and what the constraints and opportunities are with international justice,” she said.

“Through IWPR we have access to clear, insightful information, and more information from the people who are actually running the ICC and who can help to explain it.”

Meanwhile, project output has had an impact in the region this month, which saw confirmation of charges take place against Congolese militia leaders Germain Katanga and Mathieu Ngudjolo as well as the arrest of former DRC rebel leader Jean-Pierre Bemba.

IWPR was contacted by radio stations in the Great Lakes region to explain the significance of ICC developments this month.

Michael Mudimbi, director of Contact FM in Kigali, Rwanda interviewed Wolters on two occasions, in French and English.

The first interview was about the suspension of Lubanga’s trial; the second discussed ICC judges’ ruling that prosecutors abused procedures when they collected evidence in DRC.

Contact FM wanted to provide this information to the large Congolese diaspora that lives in Rwanda. The station may now broadcast Facing Justice – showing that the programme has appeal beyond DRC borders.