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Late licence fees lead to closure of private stations in DRC

(Edited and condensed)

Journaliste en danger (JED) expresses its disappointment over a decision made by Mr. Tryphon Kin Kiey Mulumba, the Minister of Posts, Telecommunications and New Technologies of Information and Communication (PTNTIC) to withdraw the operating licences of nine private radio and television stations based in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

JED denounces the malicious nature of this decision, which condemns hundreds of media professionals— and their families— to unemployment and misery in a country where employment is the exception, and unemployment, the rule.

According to our research, Baraka TV, Couleurs TV, Arche News, Hope TV, Planète TV, Radio Télé Dieu Vivant, Kin Malebo, Radio Télévision de l'Armée de l'Eternel (RTAE) and Radio Télé Kin Nº1 had their operating licences withdrawn on 11 March 2013 for failing to pay their annual licence fees, which would amount to US $24,000 per group.

In a letter addressed to the president of the Regulatory Authority of Posts and Telecommunications of the Congo (ARPTC), the minister justified his decision by saying that he had sent multiple notices encouraging private media companies to fulfill their obligations to the public treasury. He also justified his decision by noting that the government ensures that the management of frequency spectrums is profitable.

When contacted by JED, Nicolas Kusisu, the manager of Couleurs TV, deplored Mulumba's decision. “Last week, we agreed on a payment plan with DGRAD (the Directorate of Administrative, Judicial, National and Public Revenue). We have proof of payment. The minister made this decision without referring to his department,” he added.

To JED, the pretext of increased revenues does not prevail over the public's right to information. Nor does it prevail over the government's obligation to protect employment and to ensure a better environment for the media sector's payments to the state.

JED immediately that the Matata government immediately demonstrate its good faith by ordering the reopening of television and radio stations and by proposing a reasonable payment schedule.

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