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Cablegate: Drc Press Minister Bans

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RR RUEHBZ RUEHDU RUEHGI RUEHJO RUEHMR RUEHRN
DE RUEHKI #0767 2601043
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 161043Z SEP 08
FM AMEMBASSY KINSHASA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 8438
INFO RUEHXR/RWANDA COLLECTIVE
RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AF DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY COLLECTIVE
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC
RHMFISS/HQ USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE
RUZEJAA/JAC MOLESWORTH RAF MOLESWORTH UK
RUEHFR/UNMISSION UNESCO PARIS 0006

UNCLAS KINSHASA 000767

SIPDIS
SENSITIVE

E.O.12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV KDEM KPAO CG UNESCO
SUBJECT: DRC PRESS MINISTER BANS
SOME KINSHASA TV STATIONS

Sensitive but Unclassified

1. (SBU) Summary: On September 10, 2008 Press Minister Emile
Bongeli signed a decree shutting down five Kinshasa TV stations for
allegedly running afoul of national media laws. A local human
rights group depicts the ban as unsubstantiated and an attack on
freedom of speech targeting opposition media. The ministerial order
and a subsequent attack on another opposition TV station underscore
the vulnerability of the DRC's independent media. Similar incidents
in the past, however, were resolved quickly with stations returning
to the air shortly after they were shut down. End Summary.

2. (U) The press minister's decree banned Africa TV, Couleurs TV,
Radio Lisanga TV, Business Radio Television-Africa, and Canal 5.
The reason given was their failure to submit certain administrative
documents required by GODRC press laws. Africa TV and Couleurs TV
are owned respectively by former DRC vice-presidents and current
opposition figures Azaria Ruberwa and Zahidi Ngoma. Radio Lisanga
TV belongs to opposition politician Roger Lumbala, a member of the
Senate.

3. (U) According to the human rights organization Journalistes En
Danger (JED), the banned TV stations have complied with all the
paperwork required by the law. On September 15, JED
Secretary-General Tshivis Tshivuadi stated the ministerial decree
provided no legitimate rationale for shutting down these media
outlets. He went on to say the ban was issued for political
reasons, to gag irreverent opposition voices, and described the
press minister's decision as a threat to press freedom.

4. (U) In a separate development, Global Television, a
pro-opposition station, was attacked in the middle of the night
September 12 after broadcasting an interview with Mwanda Nsemi, a
member of parliament and leader of the tribal-political group Bundu
Dia Kongo (BDK), a movement that is under close scrutiny because of
alleged violent acts in the province of Bas-Congo. Nsemi blamed the
government for an upsurge in fighting in the Kivu region. Following
phone calls to the TV station from angry pro-government politicians,
armed men in police garb and civilian clothes raided the TV station.
A studio director was kidnapped, A/V tapes and equipment seized,
and the station effectively shut down. A JED press release blames
the attack on members of the intelligence services.

5. (SBU) Comment: The Congolese media is weak, divided, and
vulnerable to attacks and interference by those in political power.
Though some members of government and others close to government
circles are seen at times as encouraging attacks on the press, there
does not appear to be any pattern to these abuses and media attacks.
It is worth noting that the government banned some 30 broadcasters
a year ago in October for similar reasons. These media organizations
were eventually allowed to resume broadcasting two months later.
End comment.

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