DRC: IFJ condemns new broadcast decree targeting foreign media houses

People hold placards and face Congolese anti-riot policemen on October 19, 2016 in Goma during a demonstration over plans by Democratic Republic of Congo's President Joseph Kabila to stay in power beyond the end of his term in December. © MUSTAFA MULOPWE / AFP PHOTO

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today condemned a new decree in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) approved ahead the presidential elections that will affect foreign media, threatening freedom of expression.

Under the new decree, which was signed on 12 November by the Minister for Media and Government Lambert Mende, international broadcasters are required to register as local firms or have their transmissions cut. Radio France International (RFI), its television channel TV 5 Monde, Voice of America and the BBC would be the most affected. RFI’s signal has been blocked for over a week now after they carried a news item on a planned opposition protest due to take place earlier in the month. “These stations had turned into mouthpieces for the opposition," media quoted Minister Lambert Mende saying.

The decree states that foreign companies can operate in the DRC “with majority participation by Congolese in the capital of the said company”. It also gives foreign radio and television outlets 30 days “to come into line” with the new rules, or until December 12, eight days before the end of the mandate of President Joseph Kabila, in power since 2001.

Reports said that Kabila is supposed to step down when his mandate expires on December 19, but his ruling coalition and part of the opposition agreed last month to delay presidential elections until April 2018, citing logistical problems with voter registration.

“The new decree introduced by the Government in the DRC is an affront to the freedom of expression and a deliberate attempt from government to deny Congolese citizens their rights to receive and impart information,” said IFJ President, Philippe Leruth. “Governments can no longer hide behind bad media laws to deny citizens their fundamental rights to freedom of expression, particularly during an election year. The media, especially the broadcast media, plays an essential role in enhancing free and fair elections and must not be strangled due to political interest”.

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) called on the Government of the Democratic Republic of Congo to scrap the decree in the interest of democracy, good governance and the respect of the fundamental rights of the citizens to receive and impart information. In a country as vast and diverse as the DRC, it is only the media, especially the independent media that can ensure that politicians are heard, which helps the citizenry to make informed choices.

The IFJ joins the statements made by the United Nations (UN) and France since the weekend in expressing grave concern with respect to these new broadcasting rules.

For more information, please contact IFJ on + 32 2 235 22 16

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