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RTNC-Goma reporter suspended without pay after interviewing disaffected general

(JED/IFEX) - Michel Mutabesha Bakuza, a reporter at Radiotélévision nationale congolaise's (RTNC-the public broadcaster) Goma station, was suspended without pay on 8 May 2007 by RTNC-Goma director Gabriel Lukeka after broadcasting an interview with a former rebel general. Goma is the capital of North Kivu province, in eastern DRC.

The suspension stems from Mutabesha's 6 May interview with General Laurent Kunda Batware, an ex-warlord in the Masisi territory (about 75 km from Goma), during which the general expressed his disillusion over the integration process that was to reconcile the local militias with the national forces. Kunda went on to say that he was prepared to take his men out of the national army (Forces armées de la RDC - FARDC) since in his view the process had been mismanaged and many of his men had yet to be integrated.

Lukeka, apparently under significant pressure, claimed the interview with Kunda "breached RTNC editorial guidelines, which must support government interests."

JED is shocked and scandalised by the suspension of a journalist who was simply doing his job by attempting to present the story of a man who has been a prominent figure in media headlines for years and with whom the government has negotiated military integration.

JED is calling on RTNC Chief Operating Officer Emmanuel Kipolongo to revoke the unjust decision taken by the RTNC-Goma director, as well as any disciplinary action taken against other RTNC Goma journalists involved in the interview.

JED reminds RTNC officials that the RTNC is a public broadcaster whose editorial guidelines must not be allowed to be manipulated to defend government interests. Giving equal time to all sides in the Congolese crisis is neither a crime nor a breach of professional conduct.

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