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CAR: Remain a free and independent servant of democracy 0

Wednesday March 27th mark[ed] the 13thanniversary of Radio Ndeke Luka.  However in a flash of an eye, our story is under the radar, there will be no celebration this time.  The three days of conflict and flak that the radio has endured will not allow for any kind of celebration.

In fact, when Séléka resumed it’s offensive last Friday, the 22nd of March and took, in quick succession, the cities of Bouca, Bossangoa, and then Bossembélé, it became clear that Bangui, the capital, was the next target.

Therefore, in the measures taken to defend the city, including intimidation and threats of all kinds, Radio Ndeke Luka was not spared.  First, there was an unwarranted comparison with Radio Mille Collines made by some of the insurgents.  It was an unspeakable and foolish mistake, both unproductive and unworthy of democratic debate.  Then, there were verbal and physical attacks in which journalists were the victim of abuse on the telephone and at military and militia checkpoints; ‘Sell-outs, Good for nothings, traitors’ were just some of the atrocities spoken.

These threats culminated when it was rumored that a group of soldiers were heading towards our station with orders to take us off the air.  At that point some of the stations employees had an all too human reaction.  Despite reassurance and composure from others, they preferred to flee…

The panic was even more pronounced Saturday afternoon upon hearing the news that the first shots had been fired in the outskirts of Bangui.  Orders were then given to evacuate the radio following evening news, after a complete lock-down.

Yet, at the hour of statements at the beginning of Sunday evening, the unfortunate report is Radio Ndeke Luka was also a victim to looting:  the station’s car and four motorcycles belonging to journalists, the office of the Directrice ransacked and two computers stolen.  For the first time in its history, Radio Ndeke Luka went two days without broadcasting.

They say this radio is a media with great power, but in truth it isn’t so.  Our public officials and in particular, members of the Government and authorities have complete freedom to correct what they deem as erroneous information; they have privileged access to our premises.  But we will not compromise the integrity and distribution of relevant information to Central Africans, our listeners, at the risk of doing them wrong.

It is evident to us that our most fundamental need in the mission of providing information is to warn a population that is under threat.  To inform the listener – our constant reference – of political events that concern them directly, but also to give them the opportunity to share their point of view and to exercise their citizenry freely.

As a radio for all Central Africans, we aim to be a free servant of democracy. To inform our people is not a liberty that we take, it is a duty.

Sylvie Panika – Director for Radio Ndeke Luka

Radio Ndeke Luka is an independent radio station in CAR supported by Fondation Hirondelle.

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