Congo, Democratic Republic of (Kinshasa) | Freedom House

Freedom of the Press

Congo, Democratic Republic of (Kinshasa)

Congo, Democratic Republic of (Kinshasa)

Freedom of the Press 2004

2004 Scores

Press Status

Not Free

Press Freedom Score
(0 = best, 100 = worst)

80

Political Environment
(0 = best, 40 = worst)

31

Economic Environment
(0 = best, 30 = worst)

24

Repeated rephrasing of the constitution has left untouched the clauses on freedom of expression and of the press, but in practice Congolese journalists lack legal protections in the exercise of their profession, and their rights are consistently suppressed. In its current, transitional version, the constitution mandates that a high authority on media be created to serve as guarantor of the right to freedom of expression and a watchdog of journalistic ethics. But the authority, which parliament must approve, has not yet been created, more than a year after a power-sharing deal between government and rebel forces officially ended the conflict. The current press law, enacted under the late dictator Mobutu Sesse Seko, criminalizes criticism of state officials and requires publishers to deposit copies of their publications with the ministry of communication and press on the day of publication. Common press offenses include defamation, false news, "endangering the State" and "insulting the military" through publication or broadcast of political news or news about the war. Under Laurent-Desire Kabila, who ruled from May 1997 until January 2001, the Court of Military Order prosecuted such violations, some of which could result in the death penalty. Aggressive coverage of war issues or of government corruption still draws serious consequences. Members of the media are routinely arrested, detained, beaten, harassed, and intimidated, and copies of their newspapers are seized by civil or armed loyalists of President Joseph Kabila's People's Party for Reconstruction and Development (PPRD). Journalists do not fare any better in the regions under rebel control or at the hands of the various foreign armies backing the local warring parties. Throughout this vast war-ravaged country, physical attacks on the press are often the work of powerful public figures--businesspeople, government, military, and rebel officials--who reportedly enlist soldiers and police officers with bribes. For want of a functioning state structure, journalists cannot always seek redress, and perpetrators, even when identified, go unpunished. When arrested for alleged press offenses, few journalists are formally charged or tried in court. Some have been jailed without charge for more than three months. Due to limited literacy, radio is the most important medium. There are 24 private or religious radio stations; the government runs 2. It also runs 2 television stations; private companies, civil opposition, and rebel and religious groups control another 20. Although less virulent in their criticism of the government, the electronic media are not less subject to official abuse. Charges of faulty licenses, shady finances, and unpaid taxes or imposition of unfairly high taxes have been used to intimidate private stations.