Despite order, DRC radio station still closed

New York, April 19, 2007—Local authorities have yet to allow a community radio station in central DRC to return to the air despite an order by state regulators that it be allowed to resume broadcasting, according to the press freedom group Journaliste en Danger (JED) and local journalists. Radio ODL was shuttered by police on March 17 after it aired an interview with a local politician critical of the police.

Radio ODL in the town of Luebo, 500 miles (800 kilometers) east of the capital, Kinshasa, went off the air after armed police raided its offices without a warrant, forced its staff to leave, seized equipment, and sealed the premises, Director Merové Tshinyama told CPJ. Local Police Chief Oscar Malongi accused the station of spreading “hate messages” and “inciting civil disobedience” after the station aired the previous day a critical interview with opposition provincial parliamentarian Bafuafua Kalala, according to JED and local media reports. Tshinyama denied such accusations; he said that Kalala, who is also the station’s owner, had criticized police over alleged arbitrary arrests.

Within a week of the closure, DRC’s High Authority on Media (HAM) ordered that the station be allowed to resume broadcasting, citing a lack of evidence for its closure, according to JED and local sources.

In a telephone interview with CPJ this week, Malongi said the closure “has been lifted,” but he declined to provide any further details. Tshinyama said he and his staff have yet to be granted access to the station’s studios. “We have yet to see the seals removed from our offices; nothing has happened,” Tshinyama said.

“The refusal of local authorities to comply with a government order to reopen Radio ODL is blatant censorship,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. “We call on the local authorities to ensure that the station is returned to the air immediately.”