On the road to 2013!
Africa, here we come. Three of our producers are on the road, making it their priority to visit our partners, meet up with local youth and get freshly inspired for RNW’s 2013 programming. Tag along on the journey by reading their blogs over the next two weeks. And if you have local tips, tweet them to:
Serginho Roosblad in Lagos
Sandesh Bhugaloo in Kampala
Sophie van Leeuwen in Kinshasa
I’m standing on Kinshasa’s highest hilltop and I’m surrounded by the antennas of RTNC, the national radio and TV station controlled by President Kabila. It’s from this hilltop that most of the DRC’s radio and TV programmes, which are state-controlled, get broadcast.
Under the huge antennas, soldiers are posted round the clock. Their eyes stay fixed on me as I pass; just their looks say “Don’t touch!” But sometimes they fall asleep under the shade and I seize the opportunity to take photos.
This is apparently how the leaders of this country control the media. It was up here on this hill that the signal of UN radio station Radio Okapi was scrambled a week ago, following broadcast of a programme on M23 rebels.
At the base of a 60-metre antenna, I meet Kudura Kasongo. He's a former spokesperson of President Kabila and the owner of CMC TV, a channel that supports opposition candidate Vital Kamerhe. Today, Kasongo is openly opposed to the current Congolese regime.
“They scrambled us. During a broadcast, they cut our signal,” he says. “Just before the 2011 presidential elections, we found the antenna lying on the ground. How strange!”
Kasongo accuses the Congolese intelligence agency, the ANR, of censorship. “They are supposed to be on the lookout for external threats to the country, not monitoring the media and politicians,” he says.
“You see the three large antennas at the back?” Kasongo asks, pointing. “That area is the property of Téléconsult, a private Italian company. They host most of the radio and TV stations in the DRC, including RTNC. They have a monopoly on equipment and technology. A phone call from the ANR is enough to cut transmission.”
On the road, I see a white man sitting in a plastic chair, enjoying Congolese beer.
“Are you Italian?” I ask him.
He replies in the affirmative.
“Do you work for Téléconsult?”
Once again I get a yes.
“So is it true you are the ones controlling all TV and radio stations in Kinshasa and beyond?”
Suddently, the man gets up. He excuses himself, claiming he must go see a colleague.
It has been a year now since the last show was broadcasted. Kudura Kasongo has lost. He said goodbye to journalism.
Update: A spokesperson of Téléconsult says the accusations of the journalists are false. They would not be responsible for any censorship.