Congolese state TV urged to reinstate three journalists fired arbitrarily

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) joins Journalist in Danger (JED), its partner organization in Democratic Republic of Congo, in calling on the state-owned national radio and TV broadcaster, RTNC, to immediately reinstate three journalists who were fired arbitrarily for covering an anti-government demonstration.

Read JED’s press release below

Journalist in Danger (JED) condemns the summary dismissal of three journalists by state-owned Radio Télévision Nationale Congolaise (RTNC) for filming a political demonstration by opponents of President Joseph Kabila’s government and for suggesting that RTNC should broadcast their report.

JED has obtained copies of letters dated 22 August and 3 September by the RTNC’s director-general rescinding the contracts of cameraman Syande Emaka, reporter Marie Lelo and editor Benjamin Okakesema without prior warning because “video footage that called for rebellion was submitted for inclusion in the 8 pm TV news programme on 22 August, eluding the entire TV channel’s vigilance.”

The journalists were fired for covering a demonstration organized by Elie Kapend, the national leader of a political party called the Congolese National Liberation Front (FLNC), who gave President Joseph Kabila an ultimatum to stand down within five days and announced a political transition led by himself before the presidential election scheduled for 23 December.

In his defence, Emaka said they were contacted and asked to cover a demonstration in the National Pedagogic University (UPN). He said that, on arriving there, they were taken to FLNC headquarters on the outskirts of Kinshasa where Kapend gave a speech that did not conform to RTNC editorial policy. Their report on the speech was submitted to the TV channel’s management, which refused to broadcast it.

JED condemns the arbitrary dismissal of these journalists, who did not broadcast any part of their report although other Kinshasa journalists and media outlets did cover the demonstration and did broadcast their reports.

JED fears that, with the election campaign due to start soon, the dismissal of these journalists could be the prelude to the reinforcement of censorship in the state-owned media.