Police close radio station, detain radio technician in northern DRC

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls for the immediate release of a radio technician who has been held ever since police raided and closed an opposition radio station nearly two weeks ago in Buta, the capital of Bas-Uélé province in the north of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The raid on Radio Liberté Buta, which had all the hallmarks of being politically motivated, took place on the evening of 28 November while it was broadcasting a pre-recorded interview in which the provincial assembly’s deputy speaker criticized the provincial government. Failing to find the deputy speaker at the radio station, the police arrested Junior Supa, the technician in charge of the broadcast. 

They also seized broadcast equipment and placed a seal on the entrance to the radio station the next day. Supa is still being held. According to Journalist in Danger (JED), RSF’s partner organization, a warrant was also issued for the arrest of Radio Liberté Buta manager Jules Kasikila, who has been in hiding ever since. 

The radio station supports the Congo Liberation Movement (MLC), which is headed by Jean-Pierre Bemba, an opposition leader.

Making this radio station and its technician suffer because of local political rivalry is completely unacceptable,” said Arnaud Froger, the head of RSF’s Africa desk. “This media worker has been detained for nearly two weeks although he did nothing wrong. There are absolutely no grounds for holding him one second longer. He is not a bargaining chip. The authorities must free him at once, restore the confiscated equipment and let the radio station resume operating.”

When reached by phone, Bas-Uélé provincial communication and media minister Floribert Inga told RSF he regretted “this technician’s situation” and recognized that the decision to broadcast the interview “was not his responsibility.” But he accused the radio station of often inciting "public order disturbances” and “rousing public opinion against institutions.”

When RSF and JED met with Congolese President Félix Tshisekedi on the sidelines of the Paris Peace Forum on 12 November, he supported the idea of a moratorium on arrests of journalists in connection with their work pending revision of the 1996 press law, under which those who bring lawsuits against journalists can have them arrested.

Although a new administration took office in the DRC nearly a year ago, journalists are still often arrested arbitrarily. The victims have included Achiko Ngaya, the editor of the Kinshasa-based Nouvelles du Soir newspaper, who was held for five days in late October.

During a visit to Kinshasa from 14 to 18 October, RSF joined JED in meeting with eight deputies and senators in Kinshasa who agreed to participate in a “club of pro-press freedom parliamentarians” to advocate for an urgent reform of the obsolete and draconian legislation currently regulating journalism in the DRC.

The DRC is ranked 154th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2019 World Press Freedom Index.

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Updated on 10.12.2019