DR Congo raise fears ahead of presidential vote

Watchdogs say the crackdown breaches media freedom and stifles political debate, adding to volatility in what is already a powder-keg country.

DR Congo raise fears ahead of presidential vote

World Bulletin / News Desk

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is clamping down on online media in a declared campaign against fake news, hate speech and cyber-crime, a move that has stoked alarm as crucial elections loom.

On June 14, the ministry of communications issued a decree giving online media outlets a month to comply with new regulations, or else face potential fines and prison sentences.

"The law is intended to protect the public," Communications Minister Lambert Mende said in an interview with AFP.

"It's not just fake news -- there's also incitement to violence, hate-speech, and in our country, we know where that can lead."

The rules include registering with the authorities, complying with a 1996 law on freedom of the press and having ads approved by relevant authorities.

The punishments are the same as those detailed in the 1996 law, which include a fine and a 15-day prison term that can be longer if the crime warrants a higher sentence.

Watchdogs for media freedom and human rights say they are worried.

"If the decree is applied in its current form, it will muzzle online media and restrain freedom of expression," said Tshivis Tshivuadi, head of an advocacy group called Journalists in Danger.

"There are real concerns that these new requirements will soon be used as an excuse to crack down on Congo's vibrant online media outlets," said Ida Sawyer of Human Rights Watch.

Amnesty International warned about text prohibiting "any illustration, story, information or insertion infringing the right to the image and the right to privacy" -- a provision that, it said, has been used in the past to censor political criticism.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 14 Temmuz 2018, 13:54