Congo expels Greenpeace employee, filmmaker, investigating logging

KINSHASA (Reuters) - Authorities in Democratic Republic of Congo have expelled a Greenpeace employee and a filmmaker following a trip to forest communities affected by industrial logging.

The expulsions last month follow similar moves against foreign researchers over the past year that have drawn accusations the government is cracking down on criticism due to heightened political tensions.

The government denies this.

Government spokesman Lambert Mende told Reuters the filmmaker and Greenpeace employee were expelled for misrepresenting themselves as journalists and said he had fired a member of his staff for providing them accreditation.

Irene Wabiwa Betoko, a Greenpeace campaign manager, said in a statement the two had “all the relevant authorizations” and called the deportations “another worrying sign of how some DRC officials are trying to limit the role of media and civil society in the country, and to protect corporate interests”.

The statement did not provide the filmmaker and employee’s names but said the filmmaker is French.

In a report last month Greenpeace alleged that the environment ministry had illegally awarded forest concessions in violation of a moratorium on new logging titles.

An official at the environment ministry could not be immediately reached for contact.

In the past year, Congo’s government has expelled researchers from Human Rights Watch, Global Witness and New York University’s Congo Research Group, all of whom had criticized the government.

Tensions have risen in the past year as the end of President Joseph Kabila’s mandate approached and he failed to step down.

(The story was refiled to make clear that the filmmaker was not working for Greenpeace, corrects throughout)

Reporting By Aaron Ross; Editing by Nellie Peyton/Jeremy Gaunt