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 – 2010 Introduction
Overall Country Score: 1.77
The president of the Republic of Congo, Denis Sassou Ngouesso, could be proud that his country ranks among the very few in Central Africa that has decriminalized violations of press laws, and where journalists found guilty of such offenses do not go to prison.
National pride was at the heart of the sumptuous celebration that he organized recently for the 50th anniversary of Congolese independence.
Nonetheless, the freedom and sustainability of the media in Congo is still very much in question. During the MSI panel discussions, some panelists even expressed a sense of alarm, and identified several ills that are wearing down the Congolese public and private media.
Although Congo has laws guaranteeing the protection and promotion of the freedom of the press, the panelists cited many challenges to exercising rights in a hostile environment affected by economic instability, political mistrust, professional deficiencies, a lack of distribution channels, lethargic professional organizations, and weak unions. While the government is often accused of corruption and poor management, in turn state authorities accuse journalists of abusing the laws that protect them and failing to appreciate the achievements made by the government.
Although the law does guarantee journalist freedom and independence, the panelists trashed the “police state” that truly governs—in which authorities discourage the plurality of media sources and closely monitor how the press make use of the freedom allowed them. Many of Congo’s independent outlets as well as public outlets have ties to the state, so political coverage dominates the news, and much of it flatters the government. This environment has made self-censorship pervasive and persistent.
The panelists were very critical also of Conseil Supérieur de la Liberté de Communication (CSLC), the regulatory agency and constitutional body responsible for issuing licenses for new press outlets. “Not only is this institution completely submissive to the government, but it is also the latter’s tool to crack down on the independent media,” one panelist said.
The panelists admitted, though, that some of their fellow journalists are less than professional. They said that training and educating journalists should be a priority, but Congo still has no true journalism school, nor are there enough short-term training opportunities that focus on the practical skills (such as new media) that journalists need.
The Republic of Congo study was coordinated by, and conducted in partnership with, Journaliste en Danger, Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo.