Monday, May 30, 2016

Ready to die: How I was threatened in Congo by the government (part 1)

Threat to my life and profession in Congo

In this chapter, I am not going to enumerate all the major threats that I have been victim of while living and working in the Republic of Congo as a journalist. But, I must point out clearly that, it was a tough working environment. It was and it is still an environment that also requires a person who is ready for the ultimate sacrifice or a person who is equally as determined as the forces that were/are against democracy and above all, freedom of speech. In Congo, while I was determined to press forward my professional goal and also help push forward democracy through free speech, I knew the consequence would be an eventual, death. Death is the reward for anyone who is a prodemocracy advocate or a professional journalist, who doesn’t support the Congolese government. It is a brutal regime that hides its violence through the courteous manners of those manning it. I had made up my mind. I was prepared to die in defense of my professional independence, even though I must confess that, I was sometimes afraid. Nevertheless, I knew that, the inevitable was certainly going to happen, should I continue on the path that, I had opted. I also knew that, being an independent professional journalist with a knack for investigative journalism, I was going to suffer the same fate of four my late colleagues whose names I have mentioned below. If all those who have died because of what they believed in could be resurrected, I would want to hear their accounts on the months and days, before their brutal end in this world.

My experience has shown that, when you are hated for what you are doing, you are afraid, but you put on a brave face, while knowing full well that, you may be killed. The most difficult part is that, you know your fate, but you don’t when or how it will be carried out. As already mentioned above, I am only going to focus on the most recent threats that I underwent. In Congo, all journalists, even those who are singing the praise of the system have or are subject to one form of threat to the other. The paradox with the regime of Denis Sassou Nguesso that spends billions to launder his image and also that of his country is that, on paper, the republic of Congo doesn’t have journalists in jail. That sounds good. And this is exactly an aspect that deceives some human right defense groups such as Reporters without borders (rsf), which in their recent or 2015 press freedom rankings, placed Brazzaville in a better position than countries such as Nigeria.  The reality is that, Congo’s violation of press freedom might be at par with that of Eritrea. For this is a country where almost all newspapers that are supposedly against the government, have either been suspended or banned indefinitely. It is also a country where the owners of electronic media: Radio and Television are either member of the presidential family or close to them. And while the Congolese government, stifle internal presses freedom, the same government sponsors prestige media projects such as Africanews or Afrique media or Africa 24.

Congo might appear to some organisations as a country where the press is not under threat, but they (Congolese government), have shown to the world, their true colour. For they have carried out a number of violent expulsions of journalists and also carried out the assassination of four others: Bruno J. Ossebi, Ghislain Simplice Ongouya, Joseph Ngouala and Prosper Mokabi Ndawa. All these journalists have been assassinated by either the Congolese government or pro-government thugs simply because, they were independent minded professionals, who have not pander to what the government, wanted them to do. In Congo, when a journalist is about to informed or killed, he is forewarned. The Congolese government is as you will read in the chapter on Congolese culture, is a system that seldom likes criticism. They prefer praises. Hence they spend billions to launder their rotten images. 

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