Friday, June 10, 2016

Congo-Brazzaville:self censorship rampant among Journalists

What has always marveled me is how a family that is managing or controlling the wealth of an entire nation and that also spends massively in the creating and the financing of foreign media outlets such as Africanews, Jeune Afrique or Vision 4 TV, can be unable to pay people who are working within their media houses? The irony is that, these neglected national media houses: public and the pseudo private do spend their entire broadcasting hours, singing the praise of the president and the regime.  My conclusion on this manifest indifference of the ruling Nguesso family toward the Congolese media is that, they consider themselves to be very powerful and thus can do as they want with Congolese journalists and media.  As far as I am concern, the ruling Nguesso family, are simply inhumane, for they have little or no consideration for ordinary Congolese. In short, they are simply wicked. The ruling Nguessos don’t only fail to pay those who work for them within the media sector. They reserve the same inhumane treatment also to those working for them in different sectors. For example, those working for their bottling company, based in Edou and that produce a mineral water called Okiessi; they (workers) also go for months or even years without being paid. Hence, I wrote above that, nonpayment of workers was in the DNA of the Nguessos.

However, the irregular payment of journalists or workers in the media sector is a regional problem, affecting established media houses in both print and electronic media sectors.  In neighbouring Cameroon, Charles Nforgang, the spokesman of Cameroon Journalists Trade Union, says: media houses such as Aurore Plus, Le Messager, and Le Jour have not paid their workers for between two years and at least, six months. In such a situation, how do unpaid journalists or workers within the media sectors in Congo and Cameroon do sustain themselves? In the case of Congo and to be precise at MNCOM, that I know the condition because I have worked there, it depends on the department where the worker is attached or working in. Those who were worst off were the management staff and fixed or in house technicians. As far as journalists and cameramen/women were concern, they had monies or daily stipends because they went out to cover events and in the process, they were given brown envelopes or to put things clearly, they were paid by event organizers. It explains the reason why, most journalists do refuse or were not willing to carry out investigative journalism, when I was there. For how can you carryout investigative reporting on a politician or businessman/woman who is the sponsor of your newspaper or TV/Radio station?  That is where the dilemma lies. While some media and political analysts won’t agree.

But in my humble opinion, I do think that, the absence of independent minded journalists or truly independent media houses within the central African sub region is one of the reasons why prodemocracy movements and political change is slow to take roots. By contrast in the west and southern African sub regions, the same phenomenon of poor treatment of journalists and financially handicapped media organisations do exist. However, the difference with central Africa is that, there exist nonetheless some strong and well organized media houses coupled with well established civil society organisations and political parties. Furthermore, within the west and southern African sub regions, they also have a rising and politically conscious middle class who aspires and supports liberal democracy.  Whereas in central Africa, especially in Cameroon, Congo, Gabon, DRC , Burundi and Chad, they is a rise of an  egocentric minuscule middle class that are inward looking or what I refer to as, crony middle class. The inability of most proprietors or owners of media houses in Congo and in most countries in the sub region to pay their workers regularly is also one of the reasons why journalism has its limitations or is one of the reasons why, self censorship is rampant. 

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