It has been a bad week for radio in the Great Lakes. First, Rwandan Information Minister Louise Mushikiwabo announced that Radio BBC will remain suspended in Rwanda for their role as genocide “negationists.” And in trying to outdo its neighbor, Congolese Information Minister Lambert Mende declared it is just as anti-free-press and shut down one of Radio France International’s stations in the DRC. The Congolese Minister explained that RFI reporter Ghislaine Dupont’s coverage of conflict in the Kivus incited violence and noted:
“We’re talking about war zones where she was attempting to destabilize the country. We will cut their frequencies one by one until we are heard.”
While both Rwanda and the DRC are code red countries for freedom of press according to Reporters Without Borders, it seems like suspending radio frequencies is the popular thing to do right now in the Great Lakes. But popularity might also speak to a shifting policy landscape.
It seems like the DRC could be following Rwanda in political footstep and taking signals from their media-unfriendly policy making. Rwanda’s get-out-of-jail-free policy making card (read: ‘we had a genocide and now you can’t criticize us) might inadvertently protect regional countries that implement similar political restrictions. Because countries can point their finger at Rwanda when they themselves are condemned, Rwandan policy might actually serve as a safeguard for those in the Great Lakes. In other words, spillover effects galore.
While this seems largely dangerous due to Rwanda’s untouchable status in the international arena, think about the innumerable benefits: more countries take on serious post-conflict initiatives and outlaw plastic bags!