Monday, 20 February 2012

Freedom of expression, a big issue in Congo.

Written by Gael Masengi

Radio Television Catholique Elikya, a Kinshasa (DRC) based Christian broadcasting channel along with two opposition media outlets namely, Canal Kin (CKTV) and Canal Congo Television (CCTV) experienced a sudden signal jam on the eve of “Christian March” planned to protest against the outcome of November elections on Thursday, since then the three channels have stopped airing.

“We were told that something went wrong with our transmitters, when we sent our technician at the transmitting site in Binza (west Kinshasa) the place was seal off and the above was denied access ” declared the managing director of RTCE Lino Pungi.

Twenty years ago, on February 16th 1992, the catholic church of Congo organised the same event, a pro-democracy march in which soldiers of former dictator Mobutu Sese seko killed many Christian demonstrators. After two decades the country is still under the same repressive regime and worst human rights abuse.  The decision to cut off the air television and radio channels came from the Minister of Information and government spokesman, Lambert Mende, a man who had been on spotlight for text message service ban, back to back signal cut and suspension of French government fund radio service RFI (Radio France Internationale).

In its press release, ASADHO (Association Africaine de défense des Droits de l’Homme) an Independent human rights organisation condemned strongly the minister’s move, consider it as serious media rights and state laws violation. ASADHO called on the government to immediately re-establish the signal of three channels, to the ministers to respect the constitution and to let the CSAC to independently and transparently exercise its function as media regulatory.

Following the banning of peaceful march that should have taken place on Thursday and crackdown on Christians catholic which led to the wounding of priests and nuns, the US based Carter Center and the European Union also condemned in strongest terms the intervention of security forces near places of worship and the decision to cut the signal of TV and radio stations.  

The Congolese government have been heavily criticised by international organisations and human rights advocates for lack of press freedom and freedom of expression policy, although the country has gone major change of regimes in the last 40 years but the policies remain the same. Crackdown, repression, imprisonment and murder are the common terms used to describe the current regime’s approach to independent journalists and human rights activists, many of the mentions have lost their lives during the last ten years reign of Joseph Kabila. In most cases, the authors of such crime go unpunished and a malfunctioning justice system which always fail to establish the cause of death and kidnappings of reporters. With his main rival, Dr. Etienne Tshisekedi, put under house arrest for more than two months now, it’s clear that the man once hailed as “the artist of peace” is heading the ‘Mobutu way.’

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