The Practice of Journalism in Congo

Posted: April 4, 2013 in Congo

by Natalie Bush

In Congo, the media is both nationally and internationally state owned and operated (Wikipedia). Even though the constitution provides for freedom of speech, the government has restricted the right.

Reporters Without Borders ranked Congo 146 out of 175 countries in the freedom of press global rankings in 2009 (RSF). This was mainly due to journalists being harassed prior, during and after the presidential election. In the 2013 report, Congo was not mentioned meaning they have not had any dramatic changes in their standing.

One important practice to note is called Coupage. Coupage means hiring and paying reporters to write what the payer wants to be written. Sadly, coupage defines the practice of journalism in Congo. One Congolese journalist, Freddy Mata Matunda said, “If you don’t pay the reporter, he won’t do the story” (The Star).

Mata is referring to graft. While graft refers to corruption among politics, in the Congolese culture it is a long tradition among poorly paid scribes who routinely pocket a bribe before writing about “the supposedly incomparable virtues of this or that politician, entertainer, or wannabe celebrity,” as noted by Oakland Ross (The Star).

While this sounds unethical and lacking credibility, in Congolese culture journalism is frequently mixed with publicity. Mata realizes this method is not moral and has stubbornly shunned the system ever since he started in journalism. “I never did it. To other people, I was an idiot.” Mata explains. Instead, Mata is fighting to promote social justice. Oakland Ross describes Mata as, “…part crusading journalist and part courageous defender of justice in a war-weary land where the words “human” and “rights” don’t generally go together” (The Star).

From an American perspective, it is more than obvious why coupage should not be practiced however, in Congo few journalists have the opportunity to deter from the norm and risk their job. While the current situation is far from ideal, Mata does believe it will improve. International support is vital to the success of the resource-rich country.

“I am optimistic that things will change. At the economic level, at the social level, things are already changing. There is more political will,” Mata said. “The hope is there” (The Star).

This map depicts each country and the various situations Reporters Without Borders has classified them to currently be enduring.

This map depicts each country and the various situations Reporters Without Borders has classified them to currently be enduring. The situation color key is as follows: White = Good, Yellow = Satisfactory, Orange = Noticeable problems, Red = Difficult, Black = Very serious. The DRC is red.

Sources:

Wikipedia

RSF

The Star

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