Alerts   |   Democratic Republic of the Congo

Bukavu radio stations resume broadcasting despite threats

Kinshasa, June 10, 2004—Three community radio stations that had been threatened by rebel forces in the eastern town of Bukavu resumed broadcasting yesterday, after government forces retook the town, according to journalists at the stations. One station reported further threats.

Radio Maria, Radio Sauti ya Rehema (Voice of Mercy), and Radio Maendeleo have been able to broadcast without problem since yesterday. Kizito Mushizi, director of Maendeleo, told CPJ that the one precaution his station is taking is to stop broadcasting earlier in the evening. This measure is a response to general insecurity in Bukavu, and not specifically because journalists are afraid they will be targeted, Kizito said.

During the rebel occupation, journalists from the stations went into hiding, along with most others in town. On June 2, rebel forces broke windows and the front door of Radio Maria. Rebels seized communications equipment from a guard at Maendeleo and forced their way into the studio, but no one was there.

Shortly after Maendeleo resumed broadcasting yesterday, Kamengele Omba, the news editor, received two threatening phone calls from an unknown number, Kizito told CPJ. "You have started up again. You think it's finished, but in a few days you will see," the caller threatened, according to Kizito.

Even as the stations reopened, the three directors, who had taken refuge on June 3 in the U.N. compound in Bukavu, were evacuated to Kinshasa yesterday on a U.N. flight. The local press freedom group Journaliste en Danger is assisting them, with support from CPJ and other donors.

The directors told CPJ they continued to feel threatened because rebels could still melt back into the civilian population and track them down.

Background

The three stations stopped broadcasting on June 2 when two groups of pro-Rwanda rebels took control of Bukavu. The forces united because of tensions over a new integrated national army and a new governor appointed in Bukavu by the transitional government in Kinshasa, according to international news sources.

The radio station directors—Ben Kabamba, Joseph Nkinzo, and Kizito —had been receiving death threats by telephone since May 29. CPJ sources said the rebels began hunting for the directors shortly after taking the town. On June 3, rebel forces hunting Nkinzo killed the journalist's younger brother, believing him to be Nkinzo, and looted the journalist's home



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