Monday, 27 February 2012

Three suspended stations back on air after pressure from Press Freedom defenders!

Written by Gael Masengi

Last week we reported on unexplained signal jam and eventual suspension of three television stations, a move which the EU (European Union) and the US based Carter Center criticised the Congolese government for.  “The European Union regrets…..the decision of the minister of communication and media to cut the signal of five television and radio stations”.  the EU mission in DRC said in a statement on Friday 17 feb”.  The EU is one of the country’s biggest donors, with some 634 million set aside for development projects between 2008 and 2012.
Journaliste en Danger (JED), a non-governmental organization that defends journalists’ rights, learned that the broadcasters were allowed back on the air following a meeting between their representatives and Lambert Mende, minister of Communication and Media also government spokesman. Several sources told JED that RTCE was accused of airing “propaganda” about a peaceful march planned by Catholics for 16 February. The march was intended to mark the 20th anniversary commemoration of massacre of Christians and also to protest the outcome of the November 28th elections. CCTV and CKTV were accused of airing commercials by the Catholic Church promoting the march.
JED has condemned these acts of censorship that are intended to systematically deny the opposition its means of expression.
The tension between Kinshasa and its European partners have reached a boiling point due to allegation of frauds during the last November elections, earlier this year the EU announced that they are "revising" their contribution. Kinshasa hit back, Lambert Mende warned Europeans to “stay out and stop interfering on our domestically affairs”, he was quoted saying the Congolese government organised the elections without any outside help and he said “the DRC has no lesson to receive from anyone”.
“The international community have contributed significantly on these elections” declared the United Nations’ mission in Congo (MONUSCO) spokesperson M. Mounoubai. “Belgium, Canada, France, the UK, Switzerland, Swede as well as the Netherlands have contributed financially through the UN programmes, the UN disposed 27 helicopters and 5 planes to carry ballots throughout the entire country. We had spent $30 million to pay CENI (electoral body) workers, and when someone said that the international community have done nothing, that’s lie” he concluded.
A country which much of its budget comes from international organisations, this may be a pretty dangerous game to play for the Congolese government.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Freedom of expression, a big issue in Congo.

Written by Gael Masengi

Radio Television Catholique Elikya, a Kinshasa (DRC) based Christian broadcasting channel along with two opposition media outlets namely, Canal Kin (CKTV) and Canal Congo Television (CCTV) experienced a sudden signal jam on the eve of “Christian March” planned to protest against the outcome of November elections on Thursday, since then the three channels have stopped airing.

“We were told that something went wrong with our transmitters, when we sent our technician at the transmitting site in Binza (west Kinshasa) the place was seal off and the above was denied access ” declared the managing director of RTCE Lino Pungi.

Twenty years ago, on February 16th 1992, the catholic church of Congo organised the same event, a pro-democracy march in which soldiers of former dictator Mobutu Sese seko killed many Christian demonstrators. After two decades the country is still under the same repressive regime and worst human rights abuse.  The decision to cut off the air television and radio channels came from the Minister of Information and government spokesman, Lambert Mende, a man who had been on spotlight for text message service ban, back to back signal cut and suspension of French government fund radio service RFI (Radio France Internationale).

In its press release, ASADHO (Association Africaine de défense des Droits de l’Homme) an Independent human rights organisation condemned strongly the minister’s move, consider it as serious media rights and state laws violation. ASADHO called on the government to immediately re-establish the signal of three channels, to the ministers to respect the constitution and to let the CSAC to independently and transparently exercise its function as media regulatory.

Following the banning of peaceful march that should have taken place on Thursday and crackdown on Christians catholic which led to the wounding of priests and nuns, the US based Carter Center and the European Union also condemned in strongest terms the intervention of security forces near places of worship and the decision to cut the signal of TV and radio stations.  

The Congolese government have been heavily criticised by international organisations and human rights advocates for lack of press freedom and freedom of expression policy, although the country has gone major change of regimes in the last 40 years but the policies remain the same. Crackdown, repression, imprisonment and murder are the common terms used to describe the current regime’s approach to independent journalists and human rights activists, many of the mentions have lost their lives during the last ten years reign of Joseph Kabila. In most cases, the authors of such crime go unpunished and a malfunctioning justice system which always fail to establish the cause of death and kidnappings of reporters. With his main rival, Dr. Etienne Tshisekedi, put under house arrest for more than two months now, it’s clear that the man once hailed as “the artist of peace” is heading the ‘Mobutu way.’

Monday, 13 February 2012

Cyberspace: Africa’s new alternative media?

Written by Gael Masengi

Africa is no stranger to media freedom and freedom of expression rights extreme violation as they both are considered as major obstacles for dictatorship; mainstream media journalists in particular are continuing to be the main victimsof the oppressive regimes, many have lost their lives and yet others are said to be imprisoned across the continent.

Perhaps the days of “old age” media as the only way of information are numbered as nowadays the African continent is witnessing the evolution of technology within its borders; the Arab spring on the other hand is a result of massive irruption of personal blogging and citizen journalism. African people are finding the way to bypass any traditional media’s blockades imposed to them by turning to cyberspace, continuously, websites are seeing the light of the day and most of them are not pro-governments, they are indeed anti-regimes and in many cases pro-opposition or simply ordinary citizens willing to uncover the truth,  the presence of members of the opposition factions on new media (internet) is becoming remarkable while the incumbents presidents are omnipresent on TV, radio and newspapers.

In Nigeria, for example, thousands turn to internet not just for international news but for national as well, Sahara Reporters is a proof of people seeking true information. The website’s tagline is ‘…Report yourself’, making it a much reliable source of information for Nigerians in and outside the country, it acts as a platform in which eye-witness account matter and brings alive stories that voluntarily or involuntarily would not be seen on TV, heard on radio or read on newspapers.

Sahara Reporters isa citizen media website that encourages citizen journalists to publish evidence of on-going corruption, abuses of human rights and government malfeasance in Nigeria. Read a statement on the website.

Like many "anti-regime" websites, Sahara Reporters is based in the United State of America far from the reach of government and notorious security force. It becomes clear that people are relying more and more on this new alternative media for stories than the traditional media which require editorial and perhaps state control.

 However the critical difference between blogging and journalism, as many believe, is that bloggers and citizen journalists are partial or sentimental and report one side of story and leave another, despite the fact that “old media” is accused to be biased but journalists are still taken more seriously.


Monday, 6 February 2012

How DRC tweets! And why.

Written by Gael Masengi
Internet has played a bigger role during the “Arab Spring” eventually toppling long time dictators in North Africa; ordinary citizens took to the streets to protest against the corrupted oppressive regime in their countries and to demand justice. With state controlled media and many pro government biased TV and radio stations it became difficult for protesters to show to the world what really was happening, realising what they had was more powerful than any traditional media tool they could think of, young people armed with smart phones and small cameras across the Arab world filmed the events as was unfolding around them and supplying international channels with footage and pictures from the scene.  
While social networks in developed world are widely used for social conversation and interacting with friends and family, in Africa platforms like Facebook and Twitter specifically are becoming the main tools for frustrated people ‘to get together’ and organise anti-regime marches and demonstrations but unlike  Tunisia or Egypt, war torn Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is one of the very under-developed in the world, the country ranks last in the UN development index TV and radio remain the prime reliable sources of information, internet penetration rate is about 1% (696,520 internet users). The outcome of November polls could have been a start point of sort an “Occupy DRCongo” movement but the country’s lack of development has made it difficult for oppressed people of Congo to publicised their cause and tragedy to the entire world, twenty six people were killed by the supposedly elected president Joseph Kabila’s personal army under the watchful eyes of international journalists during the opposition rally last year and yet the “International Community” remain silence, what will it take for the will of Congolese people to be respected?
Despite hunger, poverty and oppression Congolese people are catching up slowly but surely with other African countries by turning to Twitter for political and sports news.
The research “How Africa tweets” conducted by Portland Communication and Tweetminster showed that Congolese made two thousands and four hundreds tweets in the last three months of 2011, less many than their Rwandan neighbours, raking them eightieth followed by Gabon and Ghana ninetieth and twentieth respectively among top 20 in Africa. The continent biggest economy, South Africa generated two times more tweets with over 5millions than Kenya which came in second place with 2.48millions followed by Nigeria (1.67mil), Egypt (1.21mil) and Morocco (0.75mil).
Data released show that 57% of Tweets from Africa are sent from mobile devices, 60% of the continent’s most active tweeters are aged 20-29 years old. Twitter is becoming an important source of information in Africa with 68% of those polled said that they use Twitter to monitor news while 22% use the micro-blogging site to search for employment opportunities.
“One of the surprising findings of this research is that more public figures have not joined Africa’s burgeoning Twittersphere. With some notable exceptions, we found that business and political leaders were largely absent from the debates playing out on Twitter across the continent. As Twitter lifts off in Africa, governments, businesses and development agencies can really no longer afford to stay out of a new space where dialogue will increasingly be taking place” said Mark Flanagan, Portland’s Partner for Digital Communications.
Twitter a tool of revolution?
 Beatrice Karanja, an associate director and head of Portland Nairobi Kenya, said: “We saw the pivotal role of Twitter in the events in North Africa last year, but it is clear that Africa’s Twitter revolution is really just beginning. Twitter is helping Africa and Africans to connect in new ways and swap information and views.  And for Africa as for the rest of the world that can only be good.”
African Twitter users are active across a range of social media, including Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and LinkdIn. Portland noted
However most Twitter users in the DRC are workers at foreign owned firms, locals constitute small percentages of tweeters, the country produces an estimated 64% of coltan and 15,000 tons of tin, or 4% of global production.
Coltan (also columbite-tantalite and known industrially as tantalite) is a dull black metallic ore from which the elements niobium (formerly “columbium”) and tantalum are extracted.  Tantalum from coltan is used to manufacture electronic capacitors, used in consumer electronics products such as mobiles phones [smart phones], DVD players, video game systems and computers. Coltan mining has been cited to finance serious conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Source: Wikipedia
In a latest UN report, The Guardian wrote the involvement of US in illegal deals in Congolese gold.
A US trade adviser appointed by Barack Obama orchestrated a deal to buy gold worth millions of dollars from a wanted Congolese warlord.
Kase Lawal is a Nigerian-born US oil tycoon, transferred millions of dollars to the notorious rebel leader Bosco Ntaganda between December 2010 and February 2011 as part of the deal, the report by the UN’s Group of Experts on the Democratic Republic of Congo states.
Ntaganda has been wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) since an arrest warrant was issued in 2006. He funds his exploits by smuggling natural resources in the mineral rich country, and faces allegations of recruiting child soldiers and presiding over mass rapes and murder of civilians by his troops in the National Congress for the Defence of the people (CNDP). Wrote The Guardian.
What’s the future of the DRC?