M23 rebels ban radio show by displaced Congolese journalists
Kinshasa, July 19, 2023 – Leaders of the M23 rebel movement occupying Rutshuru in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, should immediately reverse the latest ban on “Sauti ya Wahami,” a radio show produced by displaced journalists, and on Top Congo FM’s programming, the Committee to Protect Journalists said on Wednesday.
In a July 14 letter reviewed by CPJ, M23 spokesperson Lawrence Kanyuka ordered four private broadcasters — Radio Horizon FM, Radio Communautaire de Rutshuru, Radio Alliance, and Radio Racove — to stop carrying the program “Sauti ya Wahami” (Voice of the Displaced) for 60 days in the “interest of consolidating peace, the communion of communities and promoting living together.” Kanyuka also ordered the four stations, the only broadcasters still operating in Rutshuru, to indefinitely cease airing programming from Kinshasa-based Top Congo FM.
“Leaders of the M23 rebel movement in eastern DRC must stop their censorship and immediately lift the latest ban on broadcasting the ‘Sauti ya Wahami’ current affairs show, as well as programming by Top Congo FM radio,” said Angela Quintal, CPJ’s Africa program coordinator in New York. “Displaced communities in Rutshuru have the right to receive information from many sources and not only what the rebels want them to hear.”
Four journalists in Rutshuru, who asked not to be named for fear of reprisal, told CPJ that the M23 rebels were unhappy about reporting on “Sauti ya Wahami,” which focuses in part on the poor conditions faced by civilians and internally displaced people in the area. The daily 10-minute show is produced by journalists who fled to Goma, the capital of North Kivu province, on October 31 last year after the M23 takeover of Rutshuru and Kiwanja. The rebels were also unhappy about Top Congo FM’s content on politics and current affairs, including the conflict between the Congolese army and M23, the journalists said. Without the two banned programs, the local broadcasters only run cultural programming such as music and sport coverage.
The M23 rebel movement, active in the eastern Congo for decades, had a major resurgence in 2022 as it escalated attacks on the Congolese army. The fighting, which includes other armed groups, has led to widespread death and displacement. Congolese authorities continue to accuse Rwanda of supporting the M23 rebel group, which Rwanda denies.
Kanyuka’s letter includes an invitation to journalists in Rutshuru to meet rebel leaders on August 10, when the ban on “Sauti ya Wahami” will be reassessed. The letter did not mention a reassessment of the ban on Top Congo FM programming.
According to a report by local press freedom group the African Press Freedom Observatory, “Sauti ya Wahami” and Top Congo FM were previously banned for two months in Rutshuru in February this year.
CPJ called Kanyuka several times for comment but the line was busy; he did not respond to a text.