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Press still exposed to threats, pressure and censorship that undermines its credibility, says JED on World Press Freedom Day

(JED/IFEX) - Kinshasa, 2 May 2009 - As is the tradition each year, the entire world celebrates World Press Freedom Day on 3 May 2009. This year, the chosen theme is "Media, dialogue and mutual understanding."

The DR Congo is experiencing, in many of its provinces, conflicts or continued ethnic tensions that constitute volcanoes that could erupt at any time. Whether in Kivu, Oriental province (especially in Ituri), the two Kasai provinces, Katanga or Equateur, cultural differences, which are symbols of national wealth, are stirred up and often exacerbated by politicians to satisfy their ambitions.

Facing a fragile peace, the media, a large number of which are directly or indirectly controlled by politicians, struggle to be agents of peace. Even if the DR Congo celebrates World Press Freedom Day this year without a single journalist in prison, it remains no less true that the Congolese press are still exposed to threats, various forms of pressure, censorship and self-censorship due notably to the "temptation of power and money," which consequently raises the question of credibility for such a weakened press.

During the first three months of 2009, JED recorded at least seven cases of jailed journalists, nine media professionals threatened, various forms of pressure put on the media, and five cases of censorship. A total of 31 cases of press freedom violations have been registered, ranging from imprisonment of journalists to the cutting of media outlets' signals and to bans on certain broadcasters.

Furthermore, since 1990, and especially since the last general elections in 2006, politicians of all stripes have invested in the DR Congo's media sector. When they are not setting up their own newspaper, radio or television station, they control the editorial line thanks to the money they shower upon certain media outlets in various ways. Politicians enter into the media sector not because of a passion for the news nor to make money, but so that the media support their political ambitions. From this arises the phenomenon of "one minister, one newspaper" decried for many years and which has reached worrying proportions. That politicians invest in the media in the name of free enterprise is understandable. But that they manage on a day-to-day basis the editorial line of a media outlet poses a veritable problem of democracy, ethics, and professional standards.

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