Radio station shuttered; journalists arrested

New York, August 6, 2004—National intelligence agents stormed an evangelical radio station in the southern city of Lubumbashi, shutting it down and arresting seven employees this week after the station broadcast a sermon critical of the government.

The Committee to Protect Journalists is deeply troubled by the closing of Radio Hosanna, which broadcasts religious and news programs in local languages including French and Swahili.

The August 4 raid came a day after the arrest of Albert Lukusa, pastor of the Nouvelle Cité de David (New City of David) church, which owns the station. The national intelligence agency (ANR) accused Lukusa of insulting the head of state, and “inciting people to revolt against national authorities,” CPJ sources said.

The accusation stems from a July 31 broadcast of a sermon by Lukusa in which he discussed the state of the country on the anniversary of its independence, the sources said. During his sermon, Lukusa criticized the government, and said that he would continue to do so as he had under the rule of former dictator Mobutu Sese Seko.

The pastor also pointed to the presence of what he termed “foreigners” in the transitional government headed by President Joseph Kabila, initiated after a 2002 power-sharing deal that ended a devastating four-year civil war. Lukusa said the country was “run by Rwandans and Senegalese,” and that authorities were “incapable of responding to the basic needs of the population,” according to the local press freedom organization Journaliste en Danger (JED).

On August 4, journalists at the station announced Lukusa’s detention on-air, re-broadcast the sermon, and invited listeners to call in to express their opinions, according to local sources. During the call-in program, ANR agents and police stormed the station, confiscated equipment, including the transmitter, and arrested seven station employees. These included four journalists: Roger Nsenda, Clement Kabwe, Costa Kazadi, and Didier Lofoli, according to a source at the radio. Two technicians, Maturin Tshisimpa and Mimi Kajinga, were also arrested, along with a security guard, Emmanuel Lukumu.

“Closing down media outlets and arresting journalists is no way to respond to criticism,” said Ann Cooper, executive director of CPJ. “We urge Congolese authorities to ensure the immediate, unconditional release of Pastor Lukusa and all Radio Hosanna employees, and to ensure that Radio Hosanna can continue broadcasting without fear of government harassment.”