1 February 2016

Congo-Kinshasa: Govt Closes Two Opposition TV Stations in Lubumbashi

press release

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) joins Journalist in Danger (JED) in condemning the closure of two TV channels in Haut-Katanga province for alleged non-payment of taxes. Both TV channels are owned by former Katanga governor Moïse Katumbi, who used to support President Joseph Kabila but resigned from the ruling party in September 2015.

RSF and JED urge the authorities not to let political considerations obstruct freedom of information in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Journalist in Danger (JED) is stunned by the communication ministry's sudden decision to close two opposition TV channels in Lubumbashi, the capital of the southeastern province of Haut-Katanga, on the pretext that they have not paid their taxes.

JED has learned that the two Lubumbashi-based TV stations, Nyota TV and Radio Télévision Mapendo, were closed on 28 January by the communication ministry's provincial office. Both are owned by Moïse Katumbi, the former governor of what was Katanga province, who used to be one of the leaders of the ruling PPRD and who is now a member of the opposition.

According to JED's sources, the closure order came from communication minister Lambert Mende, who accused the two TV stations of "not paying the annual broadcast licence fee."

The two TV channels immediately rejected the charge. "We have proof of payment for both channels," Olivier Tuta, their CEO, told JED. "We paid in more than 40,000 US dollars, plus penalty payments, at the bank on 25 and 26 January. "We fail to understand the measure taken by the communication minister, who ordered the provincial office to disconnect our broadcast signals."

Without getting into the reasons for this decision, which seems to have been taken in haste, JED urges the Congolese authorities to adhere to taxation procedures in a fair and responsible manner and to order the unconditional reopening of these two unjustly-closed TV channels."

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