Republic of Congo Media Sustainability Index (MSI)
About the MSI
IREX designed the MSI to measure the strength and viability of any country's media sector. The MSI considers all the factors that contribute to a media system—the quality of journalism, effectiveness of management, the legal environment supporting freedom of the press, and more—to arrive at scores on a scale ranging between 0 and 4. These scores represent the strength of the media sector components and can be analyzed over time to chart progress (or regression) within a country. Additionally, countries or regions may be compared to one another. IREX currently conducts the MSI in 80 countries, and began studying Africa in 2006.
MSI Republic of Congo – 2012 Introduction
Overall Country Score: 1.62
The celebratory air of the Republic of the Congo’s 50th anniversary in 2011 could not mask its violent history. In total, about 10 coups have been followed by a great deal of deadly confrontations and political turbulence. This country of 4 million inhabitants was once again struck by tragedy on March 4, 2012, when an ammunition depot exploded in a neighborhood in Brazzaville, the capital, killing several hundred people.
Not one Congolese media outlet has conducted an extensive investigation to shed light on the cause of the tragedy, or the exact number of victims. Congolese journalists work under a cloud of fear, and resort to self-censorship to protect themselves in a country still plagued by corruption.
In this context, legislative elections took place during July and August 2012. The MSI panel discussion was held a few days after the elections. The panelists made clear that, despite the existence of a law decriminalizing press offenses, Congolese journalists suffer from harassment and persecution, and journalism remains a perilous career choice. To illustrate the risks faced by journalists, panelists recalled a case in Pointe-Noire, the economic capital and second-largest city in the republic. When a Business Radio Television camera operator attempted to film a polling station suspected of hiding voter lists, a military official assaulted him and broke his camera. Although the case was settled—meaning that the military agreed to pay for a new camera for BRTV—the gesture only materialized because BRTV happens to belong to a government official, General Dabira.
According to journalist Alain Orland M’Badinga, of Congolese magazine The New Republic, journalists are subjected to other types of pressure. Panelist Boukette Michel added, “Persecution is common in journalist circles, but goes unpunished because the perpetrators are often under the protection of certain authorities.”
Given the hostile environment for the media, Congolese journalists survive through self-censorship—not only for their own safety, but to preserve their friendships with government officials, who own 80 percent of the lucrative media outlets. This is the price that journalists pay to keep their jobs, especially in the public media. The panelists gave the example of a journalist at the national television station (Télé-Congo) who was relieved of his duties for failing to comply with this “law of silence” and airing an interview with an opponent of the regime. The panelists said that print media are considered slightly freer than broadcast media, but are far poorer and thus not as influential.