DRC: Mass media

KABEMBA, C 2005, The State of the Media in the Democratic Republic of Congo [PDF document], EISA

Extracted from: Denis Kadima and Dieudonné Tshiyoyo 2009 "Chapter 4: Democratic Republic of Congo" IN Denis Kadima and Susan Booysen (eds) Compendium of Elections in Southern Africa 1989-2009: 20 Years of Multiparty Democracy, EISA, Johannesburg, 117-118.

Both the transitional and post-transition legal frameworks in the DRC guarantee the freedom of the press, and stipulate that the exercise of this freedom cannot be subjected to restrictions, except to ensure the safeguarding of law and public order, and the respect of others' rights. The Electoral Law sets up the requirements for equitable access to the media and the allocation of airtime to candidates and parties during election campaigns. The Haute Autorité des Médias (HAM [High Media Authority]) was established as the watchdog body responsible for preventing partisan manipulation of state-run media and to monitor hate speech.

All candidates must enjoy equal time and space in the print and electronic media, and free access to the public media (Article 111, Law No 06/006). In May 2006, the HAM organised the allocation of airtime to the presidential candidates randomly. The HAM identified seven main electronic media outlets, namely the Radio-Télévision Nationale Congolaise (RTNC), Radio-Télévision Groupe L'Avenir (RTG@), Antenne A, RAGA, Digital Congo, Studio Sango Malamu and Canal Congo TV (CCTV).

The HAM also issued guidelines which would allow presidential candidates to broadcast their campaign messages and to participate in political debates during the campaign period. Each candidate was allocated 45 minutes of radio airtime and the same length of time for television programmes for the whole duration of the campaign. Furthermore, presidential candidates were expected to broadcast pre-recorded campaign messages within the legal timeframe of the electoral campaign and in their allocated airtime slots.

Broadcasting in the DRC is largely dominated by the state-owned RTNC. Many privately owned radio and television stations have emerged since the opening up of the broadcasting space in the 1990s. There were some 40 private television channels and more than 200 independent radio stations, operating throughout the country. State-owned television and radio channels were dominated by the incumbent president and his political partners, while Bemba generally had to rely on his private network of television and radio channels to put his message across. In fact, Bemba had his own TV and radio stations, namely Canal Kin Télévision (CKTV), Canal Congo Télévision (CCTV) and Radio Liberté Kinshasa. On 18 September 2006, in the aftermath of the July 2006 elections, a fire devastated the building housing the headquarters of the Bemba-owned television and radio stations in Kinshasa. But they reopened weeks later, before the presidential run-off. Again, on 12 October 2006, a television station owned by Jean-Pierre Bemba was attacked in Lubumbashi by an unidentified commando, which destroyed its local transmitter.

Although the HAM had set up strict rules to promote good conduct during campaigning, both the public and private media purposely violated the rules regulating fair access to the media and the allocation of time during the electoral campaign. Persistent complaints were levelled against the HAM by political parties and candidates for its alleged lack of adequate capacity to enforce its own guidelines, instructions and resolutions, and the HAM was consistently criticised for its alleged pro-Kabila stance (Afrik.com 2006) .

Online news websites

Congo Vision, [www] http://www.congovision.com/ [French; opens new window] (accessed 29 Mar 2010).

Digital Congo [www] http://www.digitalcongo.net/ [English, French; opens new window] (accessed 29 Mar 2010).

Le Soft Online [www] http://www.lesoftonline.net/ [French; opens new window] (accessed 29 Mar 2010).

References

Law No 06/006.

AFRIK.COM 2006 "Difficile régulation des Médias au Congo démocratique: Une Haute Autorité qui peine à se faire entendre...", 1 November, [www] http://www.afrik.com/article10540.html [opens new window] (accessed 29 Mar 2010).