The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today called for an end to the death threats against the personnel of a radio station and two TV channels owned by Jean-Pierre Bemba, the leader of the opposition in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and condemned the ransacking and closure of these stations during the deadly confrontations between government and opposition forces in Kinshasa last week.
Soldiers from the presidential guard have occupied the stations’ building and the journalists working there have been in hiding since then.
“We strongly condemn these death threats and the outrageous ransacking and closure of the media houses of Jean-Pierre Bemba,” said Gabriel Baglo, director of the IFJ Africa office. “We call on President Joseph Kabila to put an end to the occupation of the building and to ensure that the stations start to rebroadcast. He cannot simply shut down media outlets because they are owned by someone who opposes him.”
The IFJ also urged the government of the DRC to make sure that the staff at Bemba’s stations can work freely and safely. Staff members have said they received death threats after the raid on the station.
The TV channels, Canal Kin Télévision (CKTV) and Canal Congo Télévision (CCTV), and the radio station, Radio Liberté Kinshasa (Ralik), all owned by Jean-Pierre Bemba, have been off the air since March 21. The stations’ premises were ransacked during the crisis. According to media sources, soldiers from the Presidential Guard have denied everyone access to the building.
The Director of the CCTV and Ralik, Maurice Bokoko, speaking to Agence France-Presse, said that he and his colleagues are in hiding and none of the staff was on the spot at the time the stations were closed.
Questioned on the issue on Thursday during a programme on Radio Okapi, the Minister for Information, Toussaint Tshilombo Send, said that the closure of the broadcast stations is not a political matter but rather due to arrears owed to the company which provides services to the transmitters. Mbaya Tshimanga, President of the Congo-based press freedom organization, Journaliste en Danger, during the same programme indicated that only the CCTV owes arrears.
The violent confrontations in Kinshasa on March 22 and 23 between the Congolese army and guards loyal to Jean-Pierre Bemba, during the attempts to disarm the latter, led to more than 150 deaths. The building hosting the broadcast stations of Bemba is also the headquarters of his party. Bemba, a former rebel leader and currently senator, lost the second round of the presidential election to President Kabila.
For further information contact the IFJ: +221 842 01 43
The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 115 countries