Escalating a crackdown that began in May, the provincial authorities issued an unprecedented order on 17 June – of which RSF has obtained a copy – for the immediate dismissal of six journalists: Fabrice Ngani, Victor Mbonzo, Trésor Emeka and José Lingili of Radio La Voix de Bumba, Olivier Péguy Yenga of Radio Mongala and Benjamin Mondonga of Radio Mwana Mboka. At the same time, the authorities ordered the suspension of several other journalists for one to three months, including Albert Mohila of Radio Mwana Mboka, Alain Bakenya of Radio Mongala and Paulin Bolembe of Radio Rurale de Bumba.
And on the same day, the provincial authorities also decreed the suspension of several radio programmes of a political nature until further order with the declared aim of “restoring lasting social peace in Mongala province in general and the territory of Bumba in particular.” Bumba constitutes the eastern third of Mongala.
In all, last week’s order targets five privately-owned radio stations and 13 journalists, who are accused of disturbing public order or violating journalistic ethics. One of them, Radio La Voix de Bumba presenter and reporter Fabrice Ngani, was detained from 26 May to 4 June on governor Crispin Ngbundu’s orders and is still charged with defamation and “insulting the provincial authorities.” RSF has been trying for weeks to reach the governor, without success.
“In the absence of any clear offence by the media outlets concerned, this order must be regarded as purely political in nature and as the latest episode in a crackdown on the media that Mongala’s governor launched several weeks ago,” RSF’s Africa desk said. “This is an extremely grave series of attacks on Congolese media and journalists of the kind that the country’s political authorities have pledged to prevent since the new president took office last year. If such harassment of media and journalists who are just doing their job is not urgently stopped, it will be impossible to realize the promised changes in defence of press freedom.”
The United Nations and several press freedom NGOs, including Journalist in Danger (JED), a local organization, have condemned the increase in abuses against journalists in the DRC of recent weeks. RSF and JED are supporting the creation of a dedicated mechanism for the protection and security of journalists, which President Félix Tshisekedi has promised.
The DRC is ranked 150th out of 180 countries and territories in RSF's 2020 World Press Freedom Index.