Media regulator threatens Brazzaville weekly with closure
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on Congo-Brazzaville’s media regulator, the Superior Council for Freedom of Communication (CSLC), to stop harassing a newspaper about its coverage of alleged mismanagement at a state agency and instead to fulfil its role as a guarantor of press freedom.
After being told to stop covering the story in June, the Brazzaville-based general news weekly Manager Horizon was threatened with closure last week if it did not desist. This was more an act of intimidation than a regulatory measure, RSF said.
The newspaper is being threatened in connection with the series of reports it has been publishing about the alleged embezzlement of public funds by the National Civil Aviation Agency (ANAC). It has been summoned twice, on 24 June and 8 August, for questioning by the CSLC, which told it to produce hard evidence of its claims or refrain from further coverage. The newspaper has not complied.
Manager Horizon editor Habib Ayoka told RSF that, at the second meeting, the CSLC threatened to "make the newspaper disappear." The day after the second meeting, the CSLC gave the newspaper a formal warning because of its “refusal to comply with the Council’s instructions to present irrefutable evidence.”
“By demanding evidence of a journalistic investigation, the CSLC is threatening the confidentiality of journalists’ sources and is violating its primary mission, which is to ensure that the media are able to work in a completely free and independent manner,” RSF’s Africa desk said. “This must be rectified at once.”
The CSLC is a supposedly independent state agency. Seven of its 11 members are appointed by the executive and legislative authorities. The current bureau’s term expired on 28 February but it has continued to operate because a new one has not been installed. Its president, Philippe Mvouo, is a former member of the ruling party’s political bureau and is close to ANAC director-general Florent Dzota.
In September 2018, the CSLC suspended the newspaper Le Troubadour for a month for reporting what government ministers said during a cabinet meeting. The newspaper had used “underhand methods to obtain information” the regulator said.
The Republic of Congo (as Congo-Brazzaville is officially called) is ranked 117th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2019 World Press Freedom Index.