DRC: “The new press law marks the first step in the march towards media safety” (Patrick Muyaya)

DRC: “The new press law marks the first step in the march towards media safety” (Patrick Muyaya)

Press bibs distributed on 24/11/2011 at the general police station of the PNC in Kinshasa by Journaliste en danger (JED). Radio Okapi/ Ph. John Bompengo”/>

The world celebrates in this year 2023, the 30th anniversary of the establishment by the United Nations of World Press Freedom Day. The theme chosen for this year is: “Freedom of the press as a driving force for all other human rights.” In the DRC, this celebration coincides with the promulgation by the Head of State last March of the new press law. This law regulates in particular the conditions of access to the profession of journalist and enshrines the criminal, civil and professional liability of journalists and other media professionals. (Dossier)

According to the Minister of Communication and Media, Patrick Muyaya, the new press law marks the first step in the march towards media salubrity. It also makes it possible to adapt the media sector to the development of new information and communication technologies.

Indeed, the new law has the merit of defining in its first title, which has four, its field of application. It is aimed at media professionals, that is to say, press companies, natural or legal persons concerned by audiovisual messages and journalists working in a press organ in the DRC.

The law then defines the freedom of the press and the new prerogatives granted to the Superior council of audio-visual and communication, (CSAC.) This one has from now on, the regulation of the media in its charge. Moreover, in addition to the legal provisions for the creation of a press company, the second title highlights innovations. It is the regulation of the online press and the associative, community and denominational media. It also discusses the resources of media companies, including public financial support and advertising.

The third title takes into account issues related to the public’s right to information. It also deals with the question of the right of reply and the right of rectification. Finally, the fourth title, before the last which includes the final provisions, includes everything relating to criminal, civil and professional liability. And finally provides for sanctions.

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You can read the full new press law here :/sites/default/files/2023-05/nouvelle_loi_sur_la_presse.pdf

Criminal, civil and professional liability of journalists and other media professionals

The new law has strengthened the criminal responsibility of the authors of publications and broadcasts through the media with prosecution before the courts and penalties provided for any offender of the law.

As in Congolese law, criminal liability is individual, in terms of breaches of public order, the rights of others and morality; Only the author of a publication or broadcast is liable before the courts.

According to article 127 of the law on the press, insofar as their bad faith is established, the director of publication or director of programs, failing that the printers or displays, the hosts, the distributors or the sellers of the newspapers at the auction are considered complicit in offenses committed through the press.

In accordance with article 138, is guilty of the penalties provided for by the Congolese penal code, anyone who is guilty, through the press, of direct provocation of attacks on the human person, in particular murder, assassination, theft, rape, terrorism, violence. The glorification of crimes as well as the direct incitement to hatred, particularly tribal, religious, ethnic, racial, through the press are also punishable by this new law.

It also provides that any violation of the rules it prescribes in terms of advertising is punishable by a fine set out in Article 122. Advertising of a violent, immoral, pornographic and illegal nature is also punished by a fine ranging from 100 to 200 times the price paid for its broadcast.

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Conditions for access to the profession and press offenses

During the states general of communication and the media, held from January 25 to 28, 2022, the head of state Felix Antoine Tshisekedi had recommended more media salubrity in the DRC.

According to Patrick Muyaya, Minister of Communication and the Media, the new law therefore marks the first step towards this safety. Anyone who wants to be a journalist is no longer a journalist, the law reinforces the conditions of access to the profession.

Article 3 defines who is a professional journalist in point 11 and who is a media professional in point 20. Moreover, under article 42 any natural or legal person can create a press company. It would still have to respect the law which provides for several conditions in its article 43.

And Professor Claude Mukeba, teacher at the Faculty Institute of Information and Communication Sciences, to welcome this while putting the State before its responsibilities:

« When we reinforce the conditions of access to the profession logically we will eliminate what we can consider as rebuses. Those who don’t have quality can’t come, we will still have solved a small problem in terms of safety. What is beyond the text that is presented the capacity of the state or the public power to compel people to do so in an environment where the media are created every day and by anyone?

As for the question of the decriminalization of press offences, force remained with the law. For Cyrille Milandu, journalist at radio Top Congo, the responsibility lies with the journalist.

“When you read the online press, the written press, the audiovisual media, there are always slippages. I think we have to be professional by respecting the rules of our profession,” he said.

And the CSAC is now there to regulate everything.

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From the employment contract

The concern to ensure media salubrity in the DRC has also brought the social situation of journalists into the public arena. Indeed, during his presentation to the Council of Ministers on October 14, 2022, Patrick Muyaya had stressed the need to add to this new law the arsenal of texts that should govern the reform of the legal and institutional framework of the communication and media. These include the law on access to information and the law on the status of journalists working in the DRC.

As this arsenal is not yet effective, Professor Georges Jérémie Wawa, a teacher at the Faculty Institute of Information and Communication Sciences, estimated that in the meantime the old law of 1981 on the status of journalists remains in force.

Indeed, this law requires the signing of a contract between journalists and their employers.

“It’s not normal that at a time when we want to establish democracy in our country, there are still journalists who work without a contract and who resign themselves without claiming their rights. I decry this situation and I appeal to the awareness of these women and men to even begin to claim what the ordinance law N°81-012 of April 02, 1981 on the status of journalists be applied. It is this law, this ordinance law which imposes the signing of a contract between the employer and the employee. And the law of that time, it’s still in effect. Moreover, it went further by even imposing a salary scale for journalists working in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Even if there are certain advantages which can be granted to the journalist, this does not mean that these advantages replace the remuneration, precisely his salary,” lamented Georges Jérémie Wawa.

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