Rebels force radio station off the air

New York, January 31, 2006—Rebel soldiers have forced a radio station in the volatile east of the Democratic Republic of Congo off the air by looting equipment and terrorizing journalists, local press freedom organizations and United Nations radio said.

Radiotélévision La Colombe (RTC), the only radio station in the town of Rutshuru, closed on Sunday. Fighting broke out in the area, which is north of Goma, on January 20 between government troops and soldiers loyal to dissident general Laurent Nkunda.

On January 24, rebel soldiers looted the station’s equipment, Congolese press freedom group Journaliste en Danger (JED) said. They also robbed a guesthouse housing four RTC journalists who fled in fear of their lives.

RTC belongs to the governor of North Kivu province. It carries local content, relays news from its sister station in Goma and also from Radio France Internationale. Before the attack RTC journalists received threatening phone calls, RTC director Delphin Yenga Yenga told local media.

In June 2004, forces loyal to Nkunda briefly seized the eastern town of Bukavu, forced its three main community radio stations to close and threatened at least four journalists, who fled. Rebels were also blamed for killing the brother of radio station director Joseph Nkinzo, whom they mistakenly believed was the journalist.