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DR Congo blocks RFI transmissions, withdraws journalist's accreditation

John Wessels, AFP | Voters at a polling station in Kinshasa on December 30, 2018.

DR Congo has revoked the accreditation of an RFI journalist and cut off its broadcasts, accusing the radio station of stirring tension as votes are counted in key elections – claims denied by the French broadcaster.

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After curbing access to social media and text messaging services, Congolese authorities on Tuesday withdrew the accreditation of RFI’s correspondent in Kinshasa, Florence Morice, and blocked the radio's transmissions.

Government spokesman Lambert Mende accused Morice of violating electoral law and "the code of good conduct for foreign journalists” covering the December 30 elections.

Mende said RFI's broadcasts had been cut off “in all of Congo's cities", accusing the radio of spreading rumours about the election results, which are due on Sunday.

"We are not going to let a radio station throw petrol on the flames at a time when we are waiting for the compilation of the provisional results,” Mende added.

The elections will determine who succeeds President Joseph Kabila, who has been at the helm of sub-Saharan Africa's biggest country for nearly 18 years. Legislative and municipal elections took place alongside the presidential ballot.

RFI rejects accusations

A French public-service broadcaster and FRANCE 24’s sister radio station, Radio France Internationale (RFI) has a very large audience in DR Congo, the world's largest French-speaking country with a population of around 80 million people.

The radio station issued a statement on Wednesday saying its coverage had been impartial and expressing full support for its correspondent.

Morice has been "working as a professional journalist" and “has not given any [election] results”, RFI said, urging the authorities to reverse their decision.

An appeal against RFI’s suspension will be examined, said government spokesman Mende.

It is not the first time the French radio has been blocked in DR Congo. In 2017 its broadcasts were cut for a nine-month period in the capital, Kinshasa.

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