MAY 17, 2005
Updated: May 23, 2005
Radiotélévision debout Kasaï (RTDK)
The provincial governor ordered the closing of Radiotélévision debout Kasaï (RTDK), a community radio station in the central diamond mining town of Mbuji-Mayi, where at least three people were killed in violent anti-government protests. The governor, Dominique Kanku, accused the radio station of inciting violence, but RTDK and local press freedom group Journaliste en Danger (JED) said the station was merely reporting the news.
RTDK director Isaac Lambert Mbuyi Kana told CPJ that armed police surrounded the radio station, ordered it off the air, and told the staff to leave the premises. Police said they were acting on orders from Kanku, but gave no reason and produced no judicial order.
In a telephone interview with CPJ, Kanku compared the station to notorious Rwandan radio station RTLM, which incited Hutus to kill Tutsis during the 1994 genocide. Kanku claimed that statements broadcast by RTDK had sparked the violent protests, but he could cite no specific comments. He acknowledged that he had not prepared any legal order closing the station, but said the closing was a “preventive measure” and he had a duty to protect the population.
Mbuyi Kana denied the governor’s accusations, saying the radio station had simply reported on rising tensions in the town and on the circulation of fliers calling for a two-day, stay-at-home protest. He said the public unrest was sparked by the fact that the town had been without running water for two days, and news that national elections would be delayed.
Under a peace agreement, DRC was supposed to hold presidential elections by June 30 this year, but administrative and legislative foot-dragging has delayed the vote and no new date has been set. A new constitution, adopted by Parliament this week, provides for an election by June 2006.
Demonstrators in Mbuji-Mayi set fire to the offices of the RCD and MLC political parties, whose leaders are vice presidents in the national transition government, The Associated Press reported.
RTDK was allowed to resume broadcasting around 7.30 p.m. local time on May 18, after two RTDK representatives met with governor Kanku.