What did RFI report about to warrant being banned? The Committee to Protect Journalists says:
RFI stated that Congolese authorities faulted the station for citing a July 22 AFP news item that reported on the desertion of ex-rebels who had joined the national army as part of a peace deal. The AFP report quoted the military spokesman of the United Nations Organization Mission in DRC, Lt. Col. Jean-Paul Dietrich, as saying that the deserters complained of nonpayment of salaries, ethnic conflicts, and sluggish bureaucracy within the Congolese army.None of this is untrue so it's a clear case of the government not wanting its difficulties broadly reported. If it's true, one of the government's legitimate criticisms of RFI is that the station was not giving the authorities airtime to deny the reporting or further explain events from their own point of view.
So why does it matter? Because radio is how people get news in Congo. The population is largely illiterate so radio is how people find out what's going on. As in other places, radio broadcasts can of course be used mobilize listeners but they can also be used to defuse tension by keeping listeners better informed. This is why most UN missions set up radio stations. In Congo, the station is called Radio Okapi and they play an important part not just in keeping people informed and defusing tensions, but also in training journalists and highlighting the role that media can play in keeping authorities open and accountable.
Radio Okapi did report on why RFI was banned, providing the government's reasoning and an interview with a media defense organization (the article is in French). That part of the article says the media defense organization agrees with the government's decision and that RFI will have to be more accommodating in order to resume its broadcasts.
So the larger questions I think include how do you balance freedom of the press with legal requirements to "not demoralize troops who are conducting ongoing operations" and at what points should donors, MONUC, and others protest these types of decisions? I'm skeptical that reporting on the well-known difficulties the FARDC faces as it integrates formerly rebel CNDP forces and battles the FDLR warrants shutting down a radio station. The government's heavy-handedness also makes me wonder what the repercussions will be for other stations as they work to report on the same issues.
What is the role and responsibility of the media in reporting about challenges to ongoing operations? How will the remaining radio stations work within the parameters set by the Congolese authorities? What's the difference for media between working within operational security requirements, being a tool of one party's information operations, and censoring?