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Armed groups have forced the closure of a community radio station as the militancy escalates in the Central African Republic (CAR).

Radio Mbari has ceased operations in the south-east after repeated harassment of staff by local self-defence units and Muslim radical groups fighting over control of the region.

They accuse the station of failure to broadcast their messages.

The violence reached a new level this week when a member of a self-defence group burst into Radio Mbari and told staff to broadcast a communiqué warning inhabitants in Bangassou town against going to a local market, for fear of violence.

The militiaman threatened the programme presenter, who had first sought approval from his seniors before airing the material.

The presenter was threatened with an automatic weapon on air and forced to read the message.

Management has stopped broadcasting. The Reporters Without Borders condemned the violence.

“The media’s role is to inform the public, not to serve as the mouthpiece of armed groups,” a spokesperson said.

He said threatening journalists was unacceptable.

“Under no circumstances can a conflict be used as an excuse for obstructing media freedom and independence.”

The station has been a main source of local news and information in the south-east region.

The security situation in the central African country has worsened since elections held last year.

Armed Muslim radicals and Christian militants have shown complete disregard for the administration of President Faustin-Archange Touadéra. 

- CAJ News