The UN's radio station in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Radio Okapi, has turned seven, according to a media release from the UN Mission in the DRC, Monuc.

25 February 2002 was a historic day when Radio Okapi was put into service; as it coincided with the launch of the Inter Congolese Talks in Sun City, South Africa, which culminated in the transition to peace. Radio Okapi broadcasts to a large part of DR Congo's territory, with impartial, reliable, objective and professional information to accompany the peace process.

Radio Okapi is the fruit of a great ambition shared by its two founders: the United Nations and Fondation Hirondelle, which is a Swiss Non Governmental Organisation specialising in media projects in countries devastated by armed conflicts.

Along with its head studio in Kinshasa, Radio Okapi has nine regional stations and about twenty relay stations. It employs more than 200 staff, including journalists, presenters and technicians who work seven days a week to broadcast reliable and credible information in French, as well as the four national languages of Lingala, Swahili, Tshiluba and Kikongo.

Alan Doss, Special Representative of the UN Secretary General for the DR Congo, took the opportunity to congratulate Radio Okapi staff on the great job achieved.

"Seven years ago, we started with modest means. Today, the network covers the entire country and has become a reference, not only for the Congolese people but also for the national institutions and the International Community."

"Radio Okapi has almost become a national institution that plays a very important role in providing reliable information. This job can sometimes be tough and even dangerous, but it remains indispensable and I would like once again to congratulate Radio Okapi staff on a job well done," he added.

Chantal Kanyimbo, President of the DRC National Press Union, said that "Radio Okapi shows that Congolese journalists are professionals; that they have the capacity to do their job correctly when the conditions are right, in terms of salaries and equipment."

Médard Mbuyal, a journalist with the Congolese state radio said that "we must say without false modesty that Radio Okapi has helped improve the media environment in the DRC, which used to be generally steeped in ideology with a focus on political debates. Radio Okapi has helped to foster professionalism, and reinforce neutrality regarding the treatment of information."

Richard Kana, a member of civil society in Eastern Kasai province, noted that Radio Okapi is very popular among the population which appreciates its analysis and neutral treatment of information. "We appreciate and praise the courage of all these journalists who do their best and sometimes sacrifice their lives to inform the population."