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Democratic Republic of Congo4 July 2005

Several privately-owned stations suspended; journalists rounded up, harassed and assaulted : Reporters without borders and Journaliste en danger write to Kabila

Reporters without borders and its partner organisation in Kinshasa, Journaliste en danger (JED), have written to DRC President Joseph Kabila, "protesting the silencing of the privately-owned media group RAGA’s stations, including RAGA FM, RAGA TV and RAGA Plus, and the rounding up of journalists who were covering a demonstration by UDPS party activists in Kinshasa on 30 June 2005."

According to information collected by Reporters without borders and JED, RAGA FM, RAGA TV and RAGA Plus ceased broadcasting at 7:00 a.m. (local time) on 1 July. Police officers arrived at RAGA’s Kinshasa/Gombe headquarters, cut the various stations’ transmissions and seized equipment. The police did not have a warrant.

That same afternoon, under police pressure, the DRC’s media regulatory body, known by its French acronym HAM, suspended RAGA FM and RAGA TV for 10 days, on the pretext that the stations aired "biased reports" about the 30 June demonstrations in Kinshasa.

In other developments, on 30 June, agents from the Congolese National Police’s intelligence services arrested RAGA TV news director Luc Mikomo at his office and took him to the Gombe neighbourhood prison, known as "Kin Mazière". He was released later that night and his station was ordered to cease its live coverage of the opposition demonstrations.

Technician Jules Mpata was also arrested late in the evening on 30 June. He was detained at "Kin Mazière" prison for a few hours and was later released. Mpata was accused of continuing to broadcast programmes despite the police’s suspension order.

Basile Kokwalet, a camera operator with the French public station RFO/AITV, was arrested by members of the president’s personal guard (GSSP) in Kinshasa/Kalamu. His equipment was seized, but was returned to him upon his release from custody later in the evening. Kokwalet was held at the Colonel Tshatshi military base in Kinshasa/Ngaliema.

John Ngombwa, from the privately-owned station Antenne A (AA), was arrested at his newsroom as he was hosting a programme. Police officers took him and AA programming director Noël Ntunda to the "Kin Mazière" prison. Both journalists were released at around 7:30 p.m.

Journalist Mills Tshibangu and camera operator Doudou Mukuna, from the privately-owned broadcaster RadioTélé Kin Malebo (RTKM), were arrested early that same morning as they were shooting footage in Kinshasa/Lingwala. They were detained in police cells in Kinshasa/Kasa-Vubu and were released in the early afternoon.

In Kikwit, the second largest city in Bandundu province, west of the capital, Kawanda Bakiman Nkorabishen, editor-in-chief of the local Catholic Church-owned community radio station TOMISA, was beaten up and injured by soldiers near the Didi Hotel. The incident occured as he was covering a march by opposition supporters. Soldiers arrived to disperse demonstrators just as the journalist was seeking to obtain comments from supporters of the Parti lumumbiste unifié (Palu) opposition party. Bakiman showed the soldiers his press card but they beat him anyhow.

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