Following further closures of media outlets and a mounting crackdown on internet and mobile messaging in the wake of elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Amnesty International’s Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes Joan Nyanyuki said:
“The authorities in the DRC must immediately reopen all media outlets and reinstate all blocked communications channels. People must be allowed to freely access and exchange information including online as they wait for election results. This attack on freedom of expression and media freedom risks exacerbating an already tense and volatile situation.
“Now more than ever the Congolese people need assurance that the authorities are genuinely committed to the respect for human rights and allowing people to access information from diverse sources and communicate freely is a key part of that. The DRC authorities must uphold the right to freedom of expression and media freedom at this critical juncture in the country’s history.”
The DRC authorities shut down internet connection and SMS services countrywide on 31 December in a bid to stop what it termed “rumour mongering” about the election outcome.
On 1 January, they also cut off the signal of Radio France Internationale (RFI), an independent foreign radio station which is popular in the DRC. On 2 January, the signal of two TV channels belonging to opposition candidate Jean-Pierre Bemba – Canal Congo TV (CCTV) and Canal Kin TV – were cut off.
The DRC is anxiously awaiting the outcome of the election, with provisional results originally expected on 6 January. The results may now be delayed due to logistical issues, according to the electoral commission CENI.