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JED denounces wave of radio closures in Katanga province

(JED/IFEX) – Kinshasa 21 November 2011 – JED has expressed surprise over local authorities' decision to close, without warning, five community and faith-based radio stations in Kambove, located about 22 km from Likasi, the second largest city in Katanga province, southeastern DRC.

Territorial administrator Brigitte Luta moved to close Radio Télé Jedidja (RTJ), Radio Fondation Thérèse Lukenge Kapuibwe, Radio Communautaire de Kapolowe, Radio Rocher du Salut and Radio Plein Evangile on 18 November on the orders of provincial media and communications chief Mulanya Ilunga after they were accused of failing to pay required broadcast licencing fees.

The station directors were summoned to a meeting on 17 November, presided over by Luta and attended by representatives of the intelligence services (Agence Nationale des Renseignements, ANR), the national police, and the Likasi media and communications chief, during which they were told they must immediately get their papers in order by paying a sum US$15,000.

RTJ head Thierry Kalamba told JED that the decision was made despite the station heads' request to set up a payment schedule. "(Ms. Luta) clearly indicated to us that she would consider our suggestions after the elections. It is not only community and religious radio stations that haven't paid this exorbitant tax. Now, as a result, we are unable to pay the fee because of a lack of advertisers. We have asked (Ms. Luta) to stagger the payments, but our request has been in vain," said Kalamba.

JED is skeptical of the measure, which comes only a week before scheduled presidential elections, and appears designed to silence dissenting radio stations.

JED is calling on provincial authorities to intervene and negotiate a reasonable payment schedule for the stations.

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