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CPJ: DRC broadcaster Radio Tokomi Wapi suspended, police shutter station

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On January 9, 2023, Congolese authorities ordered the suspension of the broadcaster Radio Tokomi Wapi, according to news reports, a copy of that order, which CPJ reviewed, and people familiar with the case who spoke to CPJ via messaging app.

Pascal Ernest Mulumba Kalende, the minister of communication and media for Lomami province, ordered Radio Tokomi Wapi to suspend its operations and close its office in the provincial capital of Kabinda until further notice, according to those sources.

Jonas Ngiefu, the station’s director, told CPJ that police arrived at Radio Tokomi Wapi’s office later on January 9, and as of January 18 officers remained at the station to enforce the closure.

The suspension order, which cited a resolution by the province’s security council, accused Radio Tokomi Wapi of using its broadcasts to incite the local population to tribalism, revolt, and to disobey provincial authorities, and accused the station of failing to comply with journalistic ethics. The order also asked Radio Tokomi Wapi to submit a list of the journalists who work for the station.

Ngiefu told CPJ that the station broadcasts a program “Facing the Public” on Fridays, during which callers react to news and governance issues. During one episode, on January 6, a guest criticized Lomami Governor Nathan Ilunga and his government’s management of the economy, infrastructure, and social issues, Ngiefu said.

Reached over the phone by CPJ, Ilunga said he convened a meeting of the provincial security council following that broadcast, which he said had insulted his government. CPJ was unable to review that broadcast, as Radio Tokomi Wapi’s programming is not available online.

Ilunga told CPJ that “such comments and insults are intolerable, especially during this election period,” scheduled for late 2023. If left unchecked, Radio Tokomi Wapi “would push the population to revolt,” he said.

Ngiefu and Radio Tokomi Wapi owner Eliezer Ntambwe told CPJ that the station had not broadcast anything that constituted incitement, and called the suspension politically motivated.

According to Ntambwe, who is also a member of the Congolese national legislature, Radio Tokomi Wapi is the only media outlet in Kabinda that allows the local population to criticize provincial authorities.

According to a report by the regional press freedom organization Journaliste en Danger, authorities previously suspended Radio Tokomi Wapi for one week in February 2022, and the outlet was only allowed to resume once its journalists agreed to maintain journalistic standards and to “preserve the good collaboration with provincial authorities.”

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