Freedom of the Press
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Congo, Republic of (Brazzaville)
Press Freedom Score (0 = best, 100 = worst)
Legal Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
Political Environment(0 = best, 40 = worst)
Economic Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
The constitution provides for freedom of the press, although several types of expression are considered to be criminal offenses, including incitement to ethnic hatred and violence. Following legal reforms in 2001, many press offenses are punishable by fines rather than imprisonment, including libel and publishing “false news.” Nonetheless, these fines are often excessive and quickly handed down to publications that are critical of the government. Two-time libelers of the president are still subject to criminal prosecution and jail time. Local journalists employed by international media outlets, as well as those employed by the state-run media, have been stripped of accreditation for reporting perceived to be overly critical of the government or covering taboo topics like water and electricity provisions, the armed opposition, or the way in which oil revenues are managed by the government. Freedom of information is barely recognized, and access to government records is often easier for foreign correspondents than for local reporters.
According to the Kinshasa based press freedom organization Journaliste en Danger, no direct attacks on journalists in Congo-Brazzaville were recorded in 2007. However, two local television journalists reported receiving threats in June in connection with their coverage of the opposition during that month’s legislative elections. Self-censorship by journalists in response to subtle intimidation remained a problem.
In 2007, over 15 private weekly newspapers were published in the capital, Brazzaville, and provided some scrutiny of the government, although the print media did not circulate widely beyond major urban centers. There is one state-owned newspaper, La Nouvelle Republique, as well as a number of private publications believed to be allied with the regime of President Denis Sassou-Nguesso. Radio remains the most popular medium nationwide. While local journalists reported that there were 18 radio stations and 14 television stations, many of these operated unofficially, as the cost of a license is often prohibitive. In fact, the government has been slow to loosen its grip on the broadcast sector and continues to run three radio stations and one television station of its own. Political parties are not permitted to own radio stations or television channels. Although several private radio and television stations have gained permission to broadcast in recent years, they rarely criticize the government. There are no reports that the government restricts internet usage or monitors e-mail, although less than 2 percent of the population—concentrated mainly in urban areas—had access to this resource in 2007.