DRC bans broadcasts on conflict in eastern Congo

The Higher Council for Broadcasting and Communication, or CSAC, the DRC’s state-run media regulatory agency, announced in August 2012 that it would indefinitely ban broadcasters from airing talk shows and call-in programs about the ongoing conflict between the government and rebels in the eastern provinces of the country, according to news reports.

Ngoma FM, a local community station in the town of Beni, north of Butembo, was forced off the air indefinitely on October 7, 2012, on the orders of Bwanakawa Masumbuko, the town’s mayor, after it aired an interview with renegade army Col. Ntahara Nyoro, spokesman of army mutineers group Union for the Rehabilitation of Democracy in Congo (URDC), according to local press freedom group Journaliste En Danger.

Masumbuko accused the station of broadcasting news “of a nature to disturb the peace and create disharmony of the political climate.” Ngoma FM Director Célestin Ngeleka rejected the accusations, adding that the station had made an effort to offer balanced coverage and had also interviewed Congolese army spokesman Col. Célestin Ngeleka after speaking to Nyoro, according to JED.

On August 4, 2012, Sikuly’Uvasaka Makala, mayor of the eastern town of Butembo in the restive North Kivu province, forced community station Radio Soleil off the air, accusing the outlet of violating the CSAC ban by airing an interview with Lt. Col. Vianney Kazarama, a spokesman for the March 23 Movement of army mutineers known as M23, according to JED. In the interview, conducted by Radio Soleil presenter Papy Siméon, Kazarama urged local security forces to join the rebellion, JED reported.

CSAC suspended Radio Soleil for three months and banned Siméon from broadcasting on the air in Butembo, saying the interview was a “denigration of the DRC government” and demoralized “the loyalist troops,” according to news reports.

Radio Soleil Director Kennedy Muhindo rejected the accusations and said that in an effort to balance its coverage, the station had also aired an interview with DRC army spokesman Col. Celestin Ngeleka, according to JED. “There are no laws in DRC which forbid journalists and press from speaking with mutineers,” JED quoted Muhindo as saying.

One station was ordered off the air before the CSCA ban. On May 12, 2012, Butembo Mayor Makala ordered Radio Liberté off the air for three months after the station on May 7, 2012, aired telephone interviews with the leader of a militia called Congolese Resistance Patriots (PARECO) and another mutineer, JED reported. Security forces raided the station on May 13, 2012, confiscating its transmitter and detaining journalists, including presenter Pili Pili Kasaï, who was imprisoned for 13 days without charge.