KINSHASA (AFP) - Rights activists in the Democratic Republic of Congo on Friday denounced the stifling of dissent during and after November elections, controversially won by President Joseph Kabila.
The state-run media are shutting out the opposition while the security forces are breaking up protests organised by opposition parties and other groups, Congolese rights group Asadho said.
"These acts constitute serious attacks on the freedom of expression and (the right) to demonstrate peacefully," the group said in a statement.
Asadho referred to the police use of tear gas Thursday to break up a march by Christian groups in Kinshasa protesting alleged fraud in the November polls that returned President Joseph Kabila and his party to power.
The march, which marked the 30th anniversary of a February 16, 1992 march for democracy organised by Christian groups against the despotic rule of then president Mobutu Sese Seko, had been banned by the authorities.
Witnesses at the march said young thugs had also attacked Christians in one parish as police stood by and did nothing.
On Wednesday, Media and Communications Minister Lambert Mende cut off the signal of a Catholic television station and two others close to the opposition, re-establishing it on Thursday towards midnight.
Mende said it had been a penalty for administrative reasons, but according to Kinshasa-based media rights campaigners Journalists in Danger (JED), the station had been accused of broadcasting "propaganda".
The other stations had been accused of broadcasting the Church's message on the demonstration.
JED issue its own statement Friday protesting against what it described as censorship designed to silence the opposition.
The European Union delegation to the country called on Kinshasa to guarantee the right to free expression and create the conditions needed for open political debate.
Belgian deputy foreign minister Didier Reynders also denounced Thursday's crackdown on the march.
And the UN mission in the country expressed concern at what it called "restrictions on fundamental freedoms".
But Mende, who is also the government's spokesman, told AFP: "We have taken decisions concerning the respect of our laws and safeguarding the internal security of our country...
"We don't see how that concerns foreign countries," he added.
The Church issued a damning report in January that said the electoral process had brought shame on the country -- citing ballot-stuffing and a general climate of fear -- and urged the electoral panel to resign.
International observers have also criticised the election.
The Carter Center, founded by former US president Jimmy Carter, said President Joseph Kabila's re-election was too flawed to be credible, a finding the country's election commission dismissed as a smear campaign.
Opposition activist Etienne Tshisekedi, who according to official results came second in the election, rejects Kabila's victory and declared himself president elect.
The country's supreme court, which is due to announce its definitive election results in April, has received more than 500 objections from defeated candidates.