Saturday, May 14, 2016

Alain Shungu: profile of a trainer of Congolese reporters

Alain Shungu: one can’t talk about contemporary Congolese journalism without mentioning the name of Alain Shungu. He stands on the same pedestal with veteran journalists such as Mfumu Fylla, Joseph Bitala Bitemo and Jean Claude Kakou. Alain Shungu has worked as a stringer or local correspondent for several African and western media outfits. He has also offered several Congolese, on the job training, to become reporters. Besides that, he launched the news services of three radio and television stations in Congo: DRTV, MNTV and ESTV. At DRTV, he is credited to transformed, the pan European TV concept: No Comment, into a Congolese concept of long commercial breaks of 15 minutes, paid for by advertisers. In short, the Congolese “NO Comment” is not about news but about long promotional advert. The soft spoken journalist is amongst those who have influence the Congolese media landscape. In doing so, he has contributed in the promotion of democracy and freedom of speech in Congo. Even though, freedom of speech and democracy are still a luxury or a mirage in Congo. Unlike militant journalists such as Ghys Fortune Dombe Bemba of Talassa or Guy Milex Mbondzi of La Voix du Peuple or even Francois Bikindou of Le Troubadour, he is not known for taking sides on any controversial political, economic or social issues. Alain Shungu is an enigma person to many Congolese. Some claim that, because of his proximity to some influential members of government, in particular Pierre Oba, hence he is silent on major abuses carried out by the state. However, I have also noted that, while he doesn’t criticize the government, he doesn’t also criticize the opposition, as do some of his colleagues, especially, Francois Bikindou.

He is on the fence to some, while others claim that, he is a professional, hence his neutrality. In spite his professional experience, he is humble and always ready to learn. He is also humane, hence ready to offer assistance to others, especially his colleagues. If there was a medal decoration awarded to journalists for their mastery of the socio-political and economic reality of any given country, Alain Shungu would have qualified for one. For he  knows a lot about Congolese politics and also the country’s terrible human rights record, especially immediately after the 1997 civil war. His mastery of Congolese social and political engineering is akin to those of Alphonse Ndongo and Joachim Mbanza, two brilliant journalists. Furthermore, he also knows all those who partook in war crimes or atrocities during and after the 1997 civil war and the two wars that preceded it. Unfortunately, the only  obstacle on the way of Alain Shungu, obtaining an award for his mastery of Congo’s socio political and economic realities is that, he has never sat down to write his experiences: professionally, socially, politically  and economic. As concerns the beach massacre, he is also very conversant with what happened and how. For the so-called beach massacre took place in 1999, when 352 Congolese refuges, returning from the DRC went missing at the Brazzaville’s, Congo River port, generally referred to as beach. Hence the name: Beach massacre or in French, le massacre du beach.  Alain Akouala, former minister of Communications, describes Alain Shungu as a hardworking journalist.

While Maurice Nguesso, the chairman of the board of directors of the media group MNCOM, parent company of MNTV/MN Radio says: without the help of Alain Shungu, he won’t have been able to launch his Radio and Television station in 2009.But not everyone has kind words for Alain Shungu, in spite having spent most of his life in Brazzaville and married to a Congolese woman with children, some still consider him as a “Zairois”, which is a derogatory term to describe Congolese from the DRC.  Although he knows most Congolese authorities, it has not shielded him from attacks, especially whenever he allows the opposition to speak or covers stories that, the government doesn’t want Congolese and the world to know about. Alain Shungu was born on the 27th of December 1960 in Kolwezi in the Democratic Republic of Congo, but grew up in Brazzaville, where he began his journalism career. He first started working as reporter for the following weekly newspapers papers: Le Patriote and Aujourd’hui, respectively in 1991 and 1992. While working for the latter newspapers, he also served as correspondent in Brazzaville, for Forum des AS, a biweekly newspaper, based in Kinshasa in the DRC. He later on, worked successively as correspondent for Radio France International, Voice of America, and Deutsch Welle, respectively from 1993-1988, 1993-2007 and 1995-2010.

He has also worked for French and pan African newspapers such as Ouest France from 1994-1999, Africa International from 1993-2012. And from 1999 to 2005, he was the trainer and pioneer news Director of Congo’s first privately owned Radio and Television called Digital Radio and Television abbreviated DRTV. He held similar function from July 2009 to October 2011 at MNTVTV/MN Radio. And since November 2011, he is the Managing Director of Equateur Service Radio and Television. It is a privately owned media. Alain Shungu is the cofounder of an NGO called African Journalists in Danger, known in French as Journaliste Africain en Danger abbreviated JED and this since 1993. Since February 2014, he is the correspondent of TV 5 Monde in Congo with possibility to cover the DRC. Alain Shungu has until 2005, also served as representative for Reporters without Borders abbreviated RSF.  I can’t still understand the reason why he has not written or published a book on all what he knows on all the atrocities carried out by the government since 1997, in particular, the beach massacre.

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