Friday, August 4, 2017

Sassou Nguesso's Sleek method of stifling press freedom in Congo Brazzaville


As already mentioned, there are a number of Congolese journalists who have been killed by this regime and many others who have either been forced into exile or have abandoned the profession altogether. The preceding are not an exhaustive means or methods used by the government to stifle press freedom. Intimidation or beating of journalists are regularly used and the government  also goes the extra mile of intimidating families of journalists, who will in turn prevail on their husbands, wives or children who are journalists to support  the state and its propaganda.  Besides intimidation or executions, there are equally several journalists who have been expelled from the country because their method of work is too professional and independent minded for the regime to withstand.  Paradoxically, in spite the abovementioned grim picture, there are no journalists in the jails of Congo, hence some international media organisations such as Reporters without Borders, RSF tend to give the country better media rankings than relatively freer countries within the region. But RSF or other media organisations are not to be blamed. They are victims of Congolese government’s sleek manipulations tactics. As of the 4th day of June 2017, there were no journalists in any Congolese jail and no journalists have been killed since I was expelled from in 2014.  In reality Congo remains one of the most treacherous countries for journalists on the African continent.  The example to back my latter claim is the recent arrest of Ghys Fortune Bemba, the publisher of Talassa newspaper on fallacious claims that, he is supporting terrorism, simply because, he granted an interview to Frederic Bintsamou aka Pastor Ntumi and published it in his newspaper: Talassa.

Sleek method of stifling the press

The government of Congo has put in place a sleek method of stifling press freedom that may not be visible to the eyes of an uninitiated observer. The first tool of press repression in Congo is not the Police as would generally be thought or expected. Institutions such as the country’s Press and Communications Monitoring Board, officially known in French  as the Conseil Superieur de la Liberte Communication, CSLC, is the first and foremost arm of press obstruction. This organisation is promoted by the government as an agency that regulates the press, ensures professional best practices and grants broadcast frequency in the country. What contradict the noble objectives of the government agency are the political affiliations and ideologies of those who are appointed to lead the organisation and other negative aspects below listed.

Philippe Mvouo

The first problem with the CSLC is its current chair, Philippe Mvouo. However, he is not very different from his predecessor, Jacques Banagazala, who is currently among the 131 political prisoners detained at the Brazzaville, central prisons.  Philippe Mvouo is not only a member of the ruling Congolese workers party, PCT; he is also reported to be a close to two chieftain of the regime: Firmin Ayessa, the chief of staff to President Sassou Nguesso and also Jean Dominique Okemba, the nephew of President Sassou Nguesso and also his special adviser. The hyper proximity of Philippe Mvouo to the Firmin Ayessa and Jean Dominique Okemba might explain the reasons why, since he(Philippe Mvouo )was appointed as chair of CSLC, he has proscribed or suspended a record number of newspapers under the fallacious claims that, their contents were not professional or outright libelous. However after investigations, it was discovered that, almost all the newspapers suspended or banned were simply because they were either considered as too independent or that, they published news that exposed influential members of the government and also members of the Kleptocracy: Jean Dominique Okemba, Denis Christel Sassou Nguesso, Jean Jacques Bouya and many others. 

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