In the Democratic Republic of Congo, Journalists Struggle with Threats and Self-Censorship

Reporters in the DRC face threats and violence during the pre-election period. Credit: Internews
Tshivis Tshivuadi, Journaliste en Danger General Secretary. Credit Karim Benard-Dende /Internews

We consider that this question is now central. It is a scourge that limits the work of journalists a lot more than the legal framework. For us, to issue our report each November 2 is a way to challenge the government. We ask the government to prosecute identified people involved in violence against journalists or attacking press freedom outside the rule of law.

Security forces — the police and the army –and local authorities are responsible for more than half of these attacks, even in Kinshasa. Outside the rule of law, they use their power or their relations to attack media outlets when published or broadcast piece of information makes them uncomfortable.

Report: 2016: Information under Close Surveillance

The government showed its strong willingness to control the information and, for the first time, it included social media. We indeed reached another level in this obsession of control. Shutting down the networks also had consequences on businesses, companies and banks. Despite national and international disapproval, the minister of Communication [he is also the spokesperson for the government] declared “if it would happen again, I will act the same way” for national security reasons.

Internews trains women to be journalists to increase their participation in media and information. One of the issues covered is the participation of women in elections. Credit Internews

In the DRC, 80% of media outlets are owned or controlled by politicians. For them, the temptation is very strong to control the information published or broadcast by these media outlets as most of them are engaged in the political competition.

I know that there are lots of manipulations and disinformation campaigns on social media but the way to address this is not to shut down the access. Social media are now one of the main space for the democratic debate. When rumors and fake news are spreading on social networks, the best way to address the issue is to publish and share the right information.

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Patricia Chadwick

Communications and web development specialist at a media development organization.