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Three independent radio and television stations in Likasi face closure following mayor's orders

(JED/IFEX) - On 11 March 2009, the mayor of Likasi, Denis Kalondji Ngoy, ordered the closure of Community Radio of Katanga (RCK) and Radiotélévision Likasi 4 (RTL4). The mayor's decision was supported by the provincial authorities of Katanga. On 12 March, journalists from the two independent media outlets, who had been threatened and pressured for several days, finally agreed to comply with the mayor's decision. A third media outlet, All Gospel Radio (RPE) also received orders to close. RPE host Gilbert Nawezi has been ordered off the airways since last week.

According to information obtained by JED, the city of Likasi has been faced with an ongoing strike by national railway workers (SNCC) who are demanding 36 months in back pay.

The workers clashed with the police and ransacked the residence of the SNCC director. Local authorities accuse the banned media outlets of "inciting the strike and uttering slanderous comments and tribal slurs" during their coverage of the events. RCK is specifically accused of having broadcast a speech by Patrice-Emery Lumumba, the first Prime Minister of independent Congo, as well as the song "Que demande le people?" ("What do the people want?") by Congolese musician Félix Wazekwa and a local song in Swahili entitled "Binashindakana" ("It's became impossible"). The mayor believes that the songs have instigated the strike and that they have been at the root of the clashes that followed.

RTL4 is accused of incorrectly reporting that the clashes resulted in three deaths. The RPE is accused of broadcasting a programme where local residents who called in complained about local authorities "who do nothing to improve the daily lives of the Likasi people," and said how much they "missed the good old days of Mobutu."

In a 12 March letter to Lambert Mende Omalanga, Minister of Communications and the Media, JED asked Omalanga "to lift the arbitrary and illegal measures against RCK, RTL4 and RPE; and to lift the ban on radio presenter Gilbert Nawezi of RPE."

JED recalls that "no legal text in the DRC authorises a mayor, a provincial governor or a provincial parliament to ban a media outlet because of its content." JED believes that "media outlets should not be made scapegoats whenever the weaknesses of local authorities are exposed, as is the case in Likasi today."

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