Written by Gael Masengi
The electoral campaign in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has been marked by violence, media freedom and human rights abuse. The one round election of November 28 marred by serious irregularities saw Joseph Kabila re-elected for another 5 years term, results which his main rival Etienne Tshisekedi rejected, went on to proclaim himself as the “elected” president and “sworn in” three days after Mr Kabila’s “official” inauguration ceremony.
In 2009 the country was ranked 146th out of 175 nations, journalists working in the DRC are frequently silenced by intimidation, brutally and sometimes even by murder. Ambroise Pierre, head of the African desk of the Paris based media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RWB) told Deutsche Welle that
“it’sextremely dangerous to be a journalist in the DRC because the people who are the enemies of press freedom have very few limits”.
To survive as a journalist in the country, one has to align with a political party, in most case “pro-PPRD” (People Party for Reconstruction and Democracy, ruling party) broadcasters are well paid to air or publish material that satisfy the regime. In 2006 during the country’s first “democratic” elections, pro-opposition owned TV channels and radios experienced back to back signal cut by the country’s Media High Authority (Haute Autorité des Media, HAM). On July 17, HAM suspended six TV channels and radio from broadcasting. CCTV (Canal Congo Television), CKTV (Canal Kinshasa Television) and RALIK (Radio Liberté Kinshasa) all ownedby Jean Pierre Bemba (then presidential candidate) were targeted, that same year independent journalist Bapuwa Mwamba was murdered and the RFI (Radio France Internationale) correspondant in Kinshasa Ghislaine Dupontwasdeportedfrom the country.
The same scenes repeated duringthisyear’s pre and post presidential and legislatives elections. On November, during an interview on RLTV with the leader of UDPS (Union for Democracy and Social Progress), Mr Tshisekedi called his supporters to break free all his militants unfairly arrested during the party’s several manifestations if the government fail to do so within 48hours. Comments that media regulatory CSAC (ConseilSupérieure de l’Audiovisuelet de la Communication) called “incitation to violence and trouble”, the channel which is owned by an opposition member was slammed a suspension of 7 days and the CSAC issued a “warning” to pro regime broadcasters for “misusing” the comments. Carter Center observers reported that the quality and integrity of the vote tabulation process has varied across the country, ranging from the properapplication of procedures to serious irregularities, including the loss of nearly 2,000 polling station results in Kinshasa opposition stronghold. On December 20 Joseph Kabila officially sworn in, with a ceremony held at the highly secured areaof the capital Kinshasa. Etienne Tshisekedi held his own “swearing-in” three days later on Friday 23 at his residence after he was blocked from doing so and his supporters forced out by police from the scheduled place. Journalists were refused entry to the stadium and all the roads around Mr Tshisekedi’s residence were cordoned off.
“The police fired stun gun grenades and made some arrests as people walked towards the stadium and the Republican Guard confiscated BBC’s recording equipment” reported the BBC.
Yet on that day RFI signal was severally cut. According to the government spokesperson and also the minister of communication and information, Lambert Mende this is because RFI was reporting on the “swearing in” of the self-proclaimed “elected president”. Already from July 2009 to October 2010, the Congolese authority cut completely the signal of RFI, accusing it of “demoralizing” the army. Press Emblem Campaign, a Switzerland based media watchdog, announced that a total of 106 journalists were killed in 2011 across the world with Mexico leading (12), the list also includes DRC with one (1). 173 more were said to be imprisoned across the world, according to Reporters Without Borders (RWB).