One sure sign of nascent democracy is, ironically, the persecution of journalists. In a free society the physical security of journalists is assured, and in a dictatorship, journalists either don't exist or report under such controlled conditions that they aren't able to pursue political scandal. But when a country transitions from tyrrany to democracy, the press typically come into danger: there's enough freedom to go digging, but there's also enough instability for their subjects to persecute them without fear of reprisal.
With that in mind, the death of Franck Kangundu should serve as yet another reminder of the regrettable cost that inchoate democracy so often exacts. A journalist for La Reference Plus, Kangundu and his wife were shot in Kinshasa yesterday, apparently because of reporting he had conducted in the run-up to the DRC's first free elections in 40 years.
Although Congo has stabilized dramatically since its current transitional government was established in 2003, Kangundu's death should also illustrate just how precarious the situation there remains. As Reuters reported last month, rebels are still active in the DRC's eastern provinces, and as a result the death toll in the country -- which the IRC concluded was already nearly 4 million -- continues to rise.
Given such a violent history, Kangundu's murder clearly demonstrates just how imperative it is that the DRC establish both a stable political process and a free and secure press.
Note: Reporters sans Frantieres offers further commentary here.