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A chat with Congolese journalists and activists 0

Last week  I was in Congo to train a group  of journalists and activists in social media and activism. During this trip I interviewed 2 Goma-based journalists and a youth activist on the challenges of working in an area with conflicts that have no permanent front lines. Conflicts, in which often civilians pay the highest price as different armed groups fight over ever-changing political interests.

Late last year, Oxfam released a report that showed there were more than 25 armed groups in North and South Kivu provinces.

The latest conflict to hit Goma, the capital of natural resource rich North Kivu province in Eastern Congo, was last year when M23 rebels temporarily occupied the capital over disputes with government regarding their integration into the national army.

Often in these times, we mostly feed on reports from international media, written by journalists who fly in and out and can be fairly protected. In the case of Uganda we had most reporters covering the conflict from M23 frontline at the rebels invitation.

For Congolese journalists who are part of these communities who have suffered the wars for over a decade, the conditions are different. They often don’t have the protection of a large media house and they can make enemies with any groups no matter how ‘objective’ their reporting can be. Also in a country where the government troops commit crimes just like the militias do, the work of a local journalist or activist is tougher in Congo.

For instance, last year DRC government banned broadcasts on the conflict in eastern part of the country.

Jacques Vagheni is Goma-based journalist working at a community radio. He has been working as a journalist for 6 years on human rights and governance.

Press freedom

The constitution of my country grants freedom of press but nevertheless there are some political decision makers who are not happy if you denounce violations of human rights. There’s also the added issue of security because there are armed conflicts that come up and this sometimes hinders our right to report the way we want to.

In the last one-year, things have changed. When M23 took over Goma some journalists were threatened on phone if they negatively reported on the rebels. The rebels controlled the security in the city and that meant journalists couldn’t be sure of what would happen if they reported in a certain way.

Continue reading the posto of Rosebell Kagumire

Credit Picture: Rosebell Kagumire

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