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JED warns of deteriorating media climate in open letter to broadcast regulator

(JED/IFEX) - The following is an abridged translation of an open letter sent by Journaliste en Danger (JED) to the presidents of the Superior Audiovisual and Communications Council (CSAC) and the National Independent Electoral Commission (CENI) regarding the current state of media coverage in the DRC and the role that these regulatory agencies should be playing during the electoral process.

18 November 2011

Mr. Jean Bosco Baala
President, Superior Audiovisual and Communications Council (CSAC)

Mr. Daniel Ngoy Mulunda
President, National Independent Electoral Commission (CENI)

cc : Mr. Lambert Mende
Minister of Communications and Media

Kinshasa/ Gombe

Re: The dismal coverage of the electoral campaign in the media

Dear Sirs,

Journaliste en danger (JED) would like to bring to your attention the serious deterioration of democracy unfolding under your watch, and which you have decided to ignore.

Need we remind you that an independent press is an indispensable part of a legitimate and transparent electoral process, and that elections viewed as illegitimate could serve as fodder for new conflicts, which have plagued the DRC for far too long?

JED would like to express its profound disappointment over the way that the electoral campaign has played out in the media since it began three weeks ago, much to your indifference.

JED's media monitoring has shown, not surprisingly, that most of the Congolese media is engaged in a propaganda frenzy, with rare attempts at balanced reporting conducted mostly for show. The truth that they have all sold themselves to the highest bidding candidate is lost on no one.

The danger of this type of propagandic media coverage for press freedom and democracy is two-fold: firstly, it supposes the virtual elimination of news outlets worthy of the name during an electoral period; and secondly, it transforms the press into support tools for political parties. The Congolese people, under these conditions, can rely solely on the international media (with their own set of problems and weaknesses) for credible information on their own country.

Media outlets have become politically exclusive, regularly misrepresenting the platform of the opposing camp. Not only do they offer interview opportunities solely to members of their own political camp, but many refuse even to distribute information on the political activities of other candidates.

JED believes it is the job of the regulatory body to remind the media of its duty to allow equal access to all parties and opinions during electoral campaigns, in order that the people may make informed decisions. Without respect for pluralism, the right to information is sacrificed and elections lose their democratic character. Elections can only be democratic if information is plural.

JED therefore calls on you to put an end to this deterioration in media coverage that is threatening to lead the country to ruins less than two weeks ahead of the much-anticipated, and feared, elections.

Please note this is an abridged translation.

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