THE Democratic Republic of Congo’s intelligence services have ordered
three radio stations to stop rebroadcasting Radio France Internationale
or face immediate closure, writes Dennis Itumbi for

The trio of radio stations are in Butembo and North-Kivu areas. Kennedy Wema of Radio Télé Graben, Rochereau Kambakamba of Radio Liberté and John Tchipenda of Radio Scolaire were summoned to the intelligence service’s local office, where they were given the order, two station owners who requested anonymity told in telephone interviews.

The directors were told that the order came from the province’s governor. "We were told in clear terms that we must stop or face the power of the government, we tried to stand to our position but were told to follow the orders or wait for the reaction," said one.

The transmission of RFI broadcasts has been banned throughout the country since 26 July.

The ban originally started when the communications minister ordered RFI’s signal cut in Bukavu on 10 July; the ban was later extended to the rest of the country. The government decision reportedly followed RFI reports about why certain militias that recently joined the DRC army later decided to desert.

Tshivis Tshivuada, Secretary General of the DRC press freedom group Journalistes en Danger (JED), told IPI in an email, a copy of which has obtained that conditions have deteriorated for journalists since the resumption of hostilities between DRC and rebel Rwandan Hutu forces last year.

“We are witnessing an intensification of power against press freedom and the international media reporting on the situation prevailing in the country’s east,” wrote Tshivuada.

“This information, reporting on extortion committed by the Congolese Army against the civil population, is extremely embarrassing for the government. This is the reason why RFI, the most listened to station by the Congolese people, has had its signal cut.”

The move comes even as Congo intensified efforts to renew diplomatic relations with Rwanda and Uganda after 10 to 15 years of strained relations.