Friday, May 6, 2016

Joachim Mbanza: Profile of the editor–in-chief of Congo’s most professional newspapers

Joachim Mbanza: he is a journalist and editor–in-chief of Congo’s oldest newspaper, La Semaine Africaine. Until Joachim Mbanza decided to cave-in to the pressure of the state, especially to the head of the Congolese Police Force, General Jean Francois Ndenguet, the biweekly that he is managing, was one of the most professional newspapers in the country and also within the central African sub region. The professionalism of La Semaine Africaine may not have changed according to some, but when a media is no longer objective, can it still be referred to as professional? It is a question that, I will like professional of the journalism profession to give me an answer. Although Mr Mbanza is now playing the same role on the side of General Jean Francois Ndenguet as Francois Bikindou, even though in a less assertive role, La Semaine Africain has not yet become a second Troubadour newspaper. And whatever his current allegiances with the regime are, Mbanza remains    one of the most professional and brilliant journalist in Congo. To his discharge, I won’t conclude that, he is a sellout. My conviction is that, his fear of state repression and his desire not become a second Bruno Ossebi or Joseph Ngouala, couple with some lining of greed, may have forced him to collaborate with the very forces and people, who are the predators of free speech and who above all, abhor free and independent press and thoughts.

His regular participation in the live weekly Congo Presse Club programme, hosted by Andre Ondele on Tele Congo is pathetic. It has dented the respect that, a majority of Congolese had for him. And this is truer because, when taking part in Congo Press Club, he is unable to express himself objectively on national and international issues, especially, those that concerns Denis Sassou Nguesso. However, he is an intelligent man. For after professionally soiling himself, just to please the regime on Tele Congo, he redeems himself by coming to take part in a weekly programme on MNTV called Point de Presse, anchored by Emery Patrice Orbargui. The difference between Congo Press Club, broadcast of Tele Congo with Point de Press, broadcast on MNTV is that, the first is a not objective and it is a mere propaganda programme, whereas the second is professionally balanced. And this might explain the reason why; Joachim Mbanza participated every Sunday in Point de Press. In Point de Press, he was   free to express his true professional self. Just like Alphonse Ndongo, Joachim Mbanza has a solid mastery of the Congolese political landscape and that may explain the reason why, he is ambiguous.  While he is accused of collaborating with General Jean Francois Ndenguet, just like Francois Bikindou does, which is not a lie, but he refuses. However the assumed politician and member of the ruling party that he is closed to and that he officially operates as communications adviser is Claude Alphonse N’silou. Perhaps he accepts to be labeled close to N’silou than Ndenguet because the first is less radioactive than the second.

In my opinion, Joachim Mbanza seems to operate like a realist, who thinks that, if you can’t beat the current brutal regime of Denis Sassou Nguesso, you must join them, even if unconvincingly. However, I am totally against such attitudes and opinions now prevalent in the country. The attitude of sitting on the fence is not worthy of a man of the professional calibre of Joachim Mbanza, on whom many Congolese are counting on to provide them with objective information. Furthermore, democracy can’t prosper in a situation where people are not ready to sacrifice themselves for the collective good. However, collaborating with the government as he is doing, doesn’t remove the fact that, he was trained in one of France’s most prestigious schools of journalism, based in Lille. And this has made him to be among the few group of Congolese journalists, who got their training in the free world, as opposed to the majority who studied press and propaganda in eastern Europe under communism or in the former USSR and Cuba, hence he knows his job well. But unfortunately, as mentioned above, he is putting his professional know how in journalism, at the service of Denis Sassou Nguesso, who is a brutal dictator. His weak point, I think, is that, he is not bold enough to challenge the dictatorship through his writings. But one thing is clear; he doesn’t support Denis Sassou Nguesso or the way that he is governing the country.

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