National convention

National convention decisions could herald a new era for journalists in the DRC

If the convention held in Kinshasa from January 25 to 29 quickly leads to action, it will mark a turning point in the history of the media in the DRC. The proposals in the final report of the convention, of which RSF obtained a copy, repeat most of those advocated by RSF and JED.

The abolition of prison sentences for press offenses (one of the provisions of the 1996 press law) tops the list of the 80 proposals adopted. Communication and Media Minister Patrick Muyaya told RSF that a bill to this effect should be presented quickly. A moratorium on the arrests of journalists in connection with their work, another of the measures recommended by RSF and JED, is also at the top of the list. President Félix Tshisekedi, who presided over the opening and closing of this convention, reiterated his desire to guarantee the safety of journalists by creating a dedicated alert mechanism, while stressing the need to promote a more professional and responsible press. .

This national convention paves the way for reforms that could concretely improve the practice of journalism in the DRCsays Arnaud Froger, head of RSF’s Africa desk. “We welcome the main recommendations adopted and encourage the authorities to implement the long-awaited reforms as soon as possible. The path chosen to strengthen the protection of journalists and improve their working environment while strengthening the professionalization and viability of the media is the right one.

Other recommendations include the creation of a support fund for the press, the abolition of certain taxes and royalties that the media pay to the Ministry of Communication and the National Intelligence Agency (ANR), the extension of powers of the Higher Council for Audiovisual and Communication (CSAC) and the transformation of the State – radio and television broadcaster RTNC into a true public service medium. A committee should be created to monitor the implementation of the proposed reforms.

According to the annual report that JED published in December, almost half of the 110 press freedom attacks recorded in the DRC in 2021 involved attacks on the physical safety of journalists. Half of the violations took place in the eastern provinces, notably Ituri and North Kivu, which were placed under a state of emergency.

The DRC is ranked 149th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2021 World Press Freedom Index.