Democratic Republic of Congo media: No to verbal abuse by politicians
Hundreds of journalists marched in a "march of anger" last Friday in Kinshasa, to condemn physical and verbal abuse of media professionals in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The protest action was sparked by the insulting remarks of Member of Parliament Yves Kisombe towards a journalist of the private radio station RTVS1, earlier this month. "In this country, we refer to members of parliament as 'honourable', but Kisombe does not deserve such an honour because of the rude and harsh insults he uttered against our colleague", shouts a journalist, waving a caricature of the incriminated MP.
Three months before presidential and legislative elections, the protests were also an opportunity for media professionals to send a strong signal to the authorities. "It is an opportunity to tell the authorities that they need to respect and acknowledge journalists as part of the country's socio-political landscape", explains Godefroid Bwiti, a journalist at the Syfia Grands Lacs press agency. The 'march of anger', which converged towards the Parliament headquarters, essentially demanded that Kisombe be stripped of his parliamentary status. His removal from Parliament would be a lesson for others. "By calling for the removal of Yves Kisombe from Parliament, we are hopeful that this will teach a lesson to other MPs and politicians in the country who deal with journalists", Mila Kimbini reasons. Kimbini works with RTGA (Radio télévision Groupe l'Avenir), a media group based in Kinshasa.
Disregard for the profession
Kisombe later admitted to the insults and apologised in a letter addressed to the management of RTVS1. He also claimed, in the letter, to be the target of a media boycott. Since 24 August, journalists across the board have in fact announced a six-month embargo on all coverage of Kisombe's activities.
Bad working conditions
For other journalists, the lack of consideration for the profession is at the core of these insults. In the DRC, journalists are often at the mercy of their informants, as their income is heavily dependant on the stories they write. "It greatly affects the credibility and image of the journalist", insists Godefroid Bwiti, emphasising the need to improve the working conditions of journalists. "We would no longer be abused by informants, who are aware of how much we depend on them", he adds. Young journalist Jérémie Kabongo also believes that respect for media professionals will come with better working conditions. “The journalist needs basics resources for his work. We also need good working conditions and a decent salary to be able to work independently”, says Jérémie.
Beyond the Kisombe case, there is a growing concern for journalists in the run up to the elections. As in 2006, threats and abuses against journalists are on the increase. Last weekend, during a political gathering of the ruling party at the Martyrs Stadium, a reporter from RTGA saw his camera confiscated and later returned without the tape .
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