Monday, September 28, 2015

Paris-Brazzaville: Jean Philippe Kabore and the struggle for the soul of Telesud

Jean Philippe Kabore was at least able to generate through commercial contracts the sum of eight hundred thousand Euros for Telesud and kept the media house running. And while Jean Philippe Kabore was struggling with Telesud, a media that, the Bongos do occasionally use as their weapon of propaganda and also a formidable mace used to blackmail political rivals internally or countries whose leaders they didn’t like, the Bongos who are the owners, were busy fighting amongst each other for the economic and mostly political control of Gabon before and immediately after the death of their father, President Omar Bongo Ondimba. Telesud is sadly, not the only so-called pan African media house funded by African dictators. The other notable ones are Africa 24 and Afrique Media in French-speaking Africa. Some African dictators do also fund numerous newspapers and magazines. One thing with them all is that, they were not created to inform in an impartial manner, but were created for the propaganda of those leaders. Late Omar Bongo Ondimba created or funded Telesud and he did it, mostly at the time when he began facing internal and external pressure to leave power.

Before Omar Bongo Ondimba died in 2009, he had ruled Gabon for 42 years. Currently, President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasongo is funding two so-called pan African media houses, namely Africa 24 and Afrique Media. But in his country, there is no free speech and he has been in power for 36 years and not thinking of leaving. President Denis Sassou Nguesso, who also has been in power for 30 years, is no different. In his country, there is no free speech and journalists might not be in jail, but they are either killed or tortured and expelled, if they are foreigners. He too wants to have his own pan African media and he has been rewarded with Africanews, which is a subsidiary of the pan European television called Euronews.  And that explains in part, the reasons why, you won’t find them covering or reporting on human rights abuses or popular revolts like the ones that recently took place in Burundi, Burkina Faso or the major opposition rally that took place in Brazzaville, Congo on the 27th of September 2015. These media are not handicapped financially or technically as they sometimes claim.  

That also explains why, those who want to be informed on the  African continent relies mostly on western media such as the British Broadcasting Corporation(BBC), Cable News Network(CNN), Voice of America(VOA), Radio France International(rfi) and France 24 for credible information. Even though, they are sometimes biased or do stereotype the continent. But for the time being, there are no other alternatives until a credible African broadcaster emerges. However, with the coming up social media, especially Facebook, new independent and credible sources of information dissemination have started emerging and are challenging and also circumventing African governments and their censorship. There exist some good examples which are the cases of Sahara Reporter in Nigeria and News 24 in South Africa. The influence of the first contributed greatly in the peaceful alternation of political power in Nigeria in 2015.  And as regards Telesud, in spite all the efforts invested by Jean Philippe Kabore, he was not being supported financially by the Gabonese for reasons abovementioned and also because Jean Philippe was a Blackman.

However, when Bernard Volker and his white team came in, the Gabonese gave them a starting budget of Euros 5 million. Bernard Volker it must be recalled is a retired white French journalist with little or no knowledge of Africa.  But he came to Telesud not to improve on it performance. It seems it was only to make money and also for the group who followed Bernard Volker to Israel that Telesud have become for them. His first commercial operation was in Central African Republic and it was resounding flop. Telesud was paid the sum of Euros 50 thousand for an operation worth Euros 6 hundred thousand. While to his discharge it could be said he failed in Central African Republic because he did not know or understand how things worked, what he can’t be pardon was the spirit that he introduced when he was appointed. He claimed that, he wanted a new dawn professionally, but he began fighting everybody especially the news service. And the grand question that some staff began asking was this: How will the news service look like when Bernard Volker decided to attack Louis Magloire Keumayou, it founding and most influential member?

That was the question being asked by other staff when, it was clear that, Bernard Volker has decided to go to war against Louis Magloire Keumayou. Besides the tense atmosphere introduced into Telesud by Bernard Volker and his team, I hated the fact that, there was no more independence or objectivity in the way we treated or covered events. During the 2009 presidential elections that saw Ali Bongo Ondimba, the son of Omar Bongo Ondimba elected controversially as President of the Republic of Gabon, I was barred from interviewing opposition party candidates, in particular Mr. Mba Obam. Mr. Mba Obam, now late, was the main challenger of Ali Bongo Ondimba. I was disappointed, for I thought that, since the management was now in the hands of French whites, claimed to free and liberal professionally, we were also to be free to practice our profession independently. But it was a great mistake. It was total censorship, a thing that never happened under Jean Philippe Kabore, started happening. 

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