Congolese authorities close two opposition radio stations

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) in New York has issued a statement asking authorities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to immediately reopen two opposition radio stations, Radio Liberté Lisala and Radio Mwana Mboka (Rammbo), closed down by authorities a week ago.

The two radio stations, all operated by opposition politicians, were forcefully taken off the air since October 9. Reports say police raided the two radio stations, halting broadcasts, and forcefully removing employees from their offices. Director of Radio Mwana Mboka, Yannick Makambo  and Blaise Lukuta of Radio Liberté say their broadcast studios have remained closed since authorities ordered police to close them a week ago. The police allegedly acted on orders from Bruce Bika Malambo, the mayor of Lisala city and a member of the ruling party. Malambo claims that his order to close the radio stations was in response to the stations broadcast  on October 6 of a recorded statement made in an interview with opposition politician Bienvenu Moyengo, the president of the provincial assembly who called for a tax boycott by citizens in protest against poor local services.

Opposition politician Jean-Pierre Bemba is the owner of Radio Liberté Lisala.

Malambo alleges that both Radio Liberté Lisala and Radio Mwana Mboka were inciting civil disobedience and working to improve the political position of their owners.

“These media are being dictated by opposition politicians,” he said, claiming that the stations would be closed indefinitely in compliance with local regulations, but did not clarify which specific regulations he was invoking.

CPJ’s Africa Program Coordinator, Angela Quintal has described the closure of the two radio stations as a “grave act of censorship. Quintal says “Congolese ruling party politicians cannot arbitrarily decide to silence certain media for airing opposition views, especially as the DRC prepares for upcoming elections.”

Radio Liberté Lisala is owned by opposition politician Jean-Pierre Bemba, while Radio Mwana Mboka is owned by Crispin Bungdu, another opposition politician. Both stations are based in Lisala city, the capital of the DRC’s northwestern Mongala province, and have been critical of the long-delayed upcoming presidential elections in the DRC scheduled for December 2018.

Over the last year, media outlets in the DRC have been repeatedly targeted by authorities.

Human rights reports show that media outlets and journalists in the DRC have been repeatedly targeted by authorities. A week ago, female journalist Sylvanie Kiaku was detained in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo on charges of criminal defamation. The female newspaper editor was arrested in connection with two articles she published in La Percée on September 6 and September 13 regarding unpaid salaries of employees at a major Kinshasa bank for more than 10 years. The said articles highlighted the negative consequences of the unpaid salaries on the families of the bank’s employees, and accused the bank’s current managers of alleged indifference to the plight of bank workers. She was arrested and detained by officers of Kinshasa’s judicial police after an arrest warrant was issued by a local magistrate in Kinshasa.

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