Reporters Without Borders deplores the ban on any media coverage linked to the local Muslim community that the Higher Council for Broadcasting (CSAC) in the eastern province of Nord-Kivu issued on 28 July, which Muslims celebrate as Eid al-Fitr, the end of the month-long Ramadan fast.
CSAC provincial coordinator Musingi Kongolo Annocie said in the communiqué announcing the ban that it was designed to help promote “peace and peaceful cohabitation in Nord-Kivu.”
But it forces news media and journalists to refrain from covering a significant ongoing event on unfounded security grounds.
“We condemn this draconian measure by the CSAC’s provincial coordinator in Nord-Kivu,” said Reporters Without Borders assistant research director Virginie Dangles. “It is not only baseless but also illegal as the law creating this regulatory body has no provision for such a ban. We call on the Nord-Kivu CSAC to allow journalists to cover new stories involving this sector of Congolese society.”
When contacted by Reporters Without Borders, Annoncie said that the “anticipatory measure” was taken in response to an “appeal for hate” and was designed to “preserve the fragile peace.”
This violation of freedom of information is unfortunately not isolated amid the current political instability in Democratic Republic of Congo, especially since rumours of constitutional amendments began to circulate. Journalists have been paying the price in Kinshasa, in particular.
TV journalists Fabrice Yembo, Delo Demolo and Girèsse Mabiala were doing a report on the harassment of motorcycle taxi drivers in Kinshasa on 22 July when they were attacked and beaten by policemen, who damaged their cameras. The policemen even chased them back to the headquarters of their privately-owned TV station, Molière TV, causing damage to the reception area.
The Congolese police inspector-general condemned this use of violence and announced an investigation. But that did not prevent Rubens Belengel, a cameraman with Kinshasa-based Antenne A TV, from being suddenly arrested while covering a protest by the same motorcycle taxi drivers on 29 July.
The Democratic Republic of Congo is ranked 151st out of 180 countries in the 2014 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.