Beni (DR Congo) (AFP) – The United Nations is « concerned » by a new decree affecting foreign broadcasters in DR Congo, given the political crisis gripping the country, a senior UN representative said on Sunday.
The decree was signed Saturday by the minister for media and government spokesman Lambert
Mende, and mostly affects broadcasters like Radio France International (RFI), Voice of America and the BBC.
« We are concerned » by the decree, which was published as a UN Security Council delegation arrived in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, said Alexis Lamek, co-leader of the delegation.
« We raised our concerns about the political process under way and discussed with Congo
lese authorities confidence-building measures which seem necessary to us at this time, » he said after visiting Kinshasa on Saturday.
The new decree « in no way goes in the direction of the confidence-building measures we are talking about, » Lamek, France’s deputy representative at UN headquarters in New York, said in Beni, in the east of the country.
The decree states notably that foreign companies can operate in DR Congo « with a majority participation by Congolese in the capital of said company ».
It gives foreign radio and TV outlets 30 days « to come into line » with the new rules — or until December 12, eight days before the end of the mandate of President Joseph Kabila, who has been in power since 2001 and is constitutionally barred from standing for election again.
The DRC’s political crisis deepened last month after a presidential election, which had been due before the year’s end, was postponed until April 2018.
The opposition has accused Kabila of manipulating the electoral system to stay in power after his second term ends on December 20.
The signal of RFI, one of the most popular stations in francophone DRC, has been blocked since earlier this month, when an opposition protest was due to take place.
Rights group La Voix Des Sans-Voix (The Voice of the Voiceless) condemned the blockage, which it described as an « inadmissable attack on freedom of the press ».
Kabila’s government has frequently interfered with RFI broadcasts over the last two years — blocking transmissions any time opposition supporters have organised protests against the president.
While RFI remains blocked in DRC, its citizens can still receive the station’s signal from neighbouring Republic of the Congo.