Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Congo: a country without privately owned media

How did they get those certificates?  This will be answered on the chapter on: “Congolese cultural values”. One thing amongst many that I have noticed while in Congo, especially amongst its elite is that, corruption and exam cheat has become a style or an acceptable culture. The elite are the ones who help their children to cheat during exams.  It is not as though there were no examination cheat or corruption in other African countries that I have visited, stayed and worked. The difference between Congo and other African countries that I have visited and stayed and work is that, examination cheat and all kinds of corruption is not only accepted but supported by the government. This is a country where the administrations of the lone state University and other state institutions have refused computerization or digitalization for fear that; it might stop or reduce frauds of all kinds. Some elite, in particular those belonging to the ruling PCT prosper in corruption. 

Then after observing the Congolese media landscape, I discovered that, most of the media houses or media outfits were owned by members of the ruling family: daughters, sons, brother, cousins of the President of the Republic. The only other people allowed to have media houses in Congo were people gravitating around power circles. Therefore, the so-called private media houses in Congo were a farce. They were also everything but private. Those so-called private media houses were not very different from the state owned National Radio and Television in the way that, they treated news stories that concerns any national and international events. Most media houses in Congo, especially electronic, were just making propaganda of the system and the ruling family. The only area where there were some independence or free views were in the print media that were truly privately owned.  To show how the ruling PCT and president Denis Sassou Nguesso abhorrs private or independent media, the government even decided to ground the national daily called La Nouvelle Republique in favor of a privately owned daily called Les Depeches de Brazzaville.  

In fact, Les Depeches de Brazzaville is owned by the president of the Republic and managed by a French former journalist by name Jean Paul Pigasse. While the private print press was trying to be objective, it treatment or handling of news was albeit sometimes sensational and also close to the views of the opposition or the majority of Congolese.  However, the outreach of the print privately owned media was limited in Congo. And this because of two things: the cost of a newspaper and educational barrier. A weekly newspaper in Congo cost FCFA 500 or $1, a sum that most Congolese don’t have and to make matters more complicated, most Congolese cannot read French. While most Congolese cannot read or write in French, which is the country’s official language, they cannot also read or write in the two other alternate national languages which are: Lingala and Kituba. The most appropriate means of communications in Congo like most African countries is radio. But in Congo, Radio and Television stations were as already mentioned the exclusive preserve of the ruling family and those close to them. It is not as though others could not have radio or television stations.

But licenses will never be given to any one or group of people who don’t belong to the ruling family or whose political orientation is not vetted by the ruling family and the ruling Congolese Workers Party or the PCT.  Mindful of this unique reality in Congo, I therefore decided and this with the support of Maurice Nguesso to have a television station that will meet my aspiration, which was to be more balanced and professional in the coverage of news and events nationally and internationally. It was not an easy task, for there were some resistances and the resistance came principally from Mrs Lydie Hortense Kourissa. But the reality was that, Mrs. Kourissa was simply delivering or piling on me the pressure that she was receiving from her husband Mr Jean De Dieu Kourissa MP. Mr Kourissa is an MP for the ruling Congolese Workers Party or the PCT and a modern man who also contributed that I should come and work with his father in law. Mr Jean De Dieu Kourissa MP is a living example that, not all who are members of the ruling party and also members of the ruling family are bad or not ready for progress in all aspects.

However, the problem with Mr Jean De Dieu Kourissa MP and others like him within the ruling party is their collective fear to lose their privileges coupled with the fear of reprisals.  When Jean De Dieu Kourissa MP heard that, I wanted to have a television station that will give balanced news and views on national and international issues, he cringed.  He was afraid of the consequences that I will sustain from the ruling party of which he was an MP.  For Mr Jean De Dieu Kourissa MP knew that, the ruling party seldom likes the truth and they abhor any professional journalist who won’t sing their praise. It was a tough time for. And I had special debate with Mr Jean De Dieu Kourissa MP on the editorial line that I wanted to put in place, if they wanted me to work for them. I told them that, the survival of MNTV/MN Radio lies in being professional and objective. Anything short of those latter mentioned, no Congolese will ever bother to listen to them or watch their radio or television, because they know it is another attempt, for the ruling family to control the country media wise as they are already doing politically and economically. 

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