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DRC community radio station shut down, accused of inciting teachers to strike


On 13 January 2014, Journalist in Danger (JED) wrote to His Grace, Abbot Jean Bosco Bahala, president of the Democratic Republic of Congo's broadcast regulator (CSAC), to request the unconditional re-opening of Manono Community Radio. The station is based in Manono, a territory approximately 600 km from Lubumbashi, the capital of Katanga province, southeastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The station has been illegally closed since 8 January 2014 by Mr. Justin Mussa Fundi, head of the Tanganyika district's Communications Department.

In its letter, JED vehemently denounced this closure, which constitutes a serious violation of free expression, and which deprives thousands of listeners to information from a radio station that has not violated any media laws.

JED equally denounced the act by the head of Tanganyika's Communications Department, who was unfortunately given the position of media regulator. A position which – under law 11-001 from 10 January 2011 – should pertain exclusively to the CSAC.

JED was able to obtain a copy of the decision made by Mr. Justin Mussa Fundi. The decision was based on an accusation that Manono Community Radio had aired, on 6 January 2014, “messages capable of disturbing the public order in Manono territory (…) calling on teachers in Manono to engage in a general strike.”

Mr. Mussa justified his decision by confirming that he preventatively suspended the media's activity until things were “in order” again, as “it was in flagrant violation of the clauses regulating private radio and/or television stations, as determined by the public authorities.” He therefore requested the Manono territory administrator to commission an investigation into the case.

According to information obtained by JED, the heads of Manono Community Radio were questioned on the morning of 9 January 2013, at the Manono territory administrator's office – at which time they were notified about the decision taken by the head of the Tanganyika's Communications Department. Immediately thereafter, the radio station's program director was arrested, and was released 24 hours later.

Contacted by JED, Mr. Sylvain Kasongo, director of Manono Community Radio, said that on 8 January 2014, at around 7pm, his station aired a show entitled “School Antenna,” dedicated to educating students. During the show, a teacher begged his students to not neglect their studies, called upon teachers to start working again, regardless of any difficulties, and asked local authorities to come to an agreement with the teachers. “We have never aired information calling on teachers to strike. Our show, dedicated to promoting education, is aired every Wednesday, not Monday, as the head of the Department of Communications of Tanganyika has claimed. This is a situation that hides malicious intent,” he added.

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