The Lacking of Balance

On November 21 at 21:00, Radio Okapi journalist Didace Namujimbo was shot and killed in Bukavu, Congo DRC. It’s not only a tragic affront to freedom of the press (DRC is in the lower 15% of the world) but sad to me as I had met Didace on my trip to DRC this year. I can’t speak French, so our conversation was quite brief, but he was one of those people who exuded a warmth from him. He was also a father and sadly whomever shot him leaves behind a wife and three children.
Of course, I could on about this. I could eulogize and wax about how sad this is. I’m not going to though because the real crime in all of this is the complete lack of balance in media when it comes to DRC and Sub-Saharan Africa at large. Yes, Reuters picked the story and of course MONUC has an article, but there is nothing on BBC or CNN about it. While this may change once the reporters wake up after the weekend, it currently sits that all they’re talking about is the conflict up in North Kivu. And it’s not like that conflict is raging. There is currently a ceasefire, so Didace was killed on what is in reality a slow news day.
Anyone reading this is more than likely aware of the fact that news coverage in Africa is quite poor, but what irks me beyond everything else is that this is just viewed as “normal”. What do you expect, they’re savages there, right? Wrong. Bukavu is not Goma. It is not a violent area. It’s calm, beautiful, and about as normal as any town can be. This assassination has just come up from nowhere, much as the previous one a year ago. But again, in Western eyes, this is normal.
Congolese have every right to be affronted by such an assumption. If they keep up with European media, they too could assume that Europe is a violent place full of “savages”. I bring to light, Ivo Pukanić who I wrote about here and here. He was a journalist killed by a car bomb last month in Croatia. No matter how you want to argue it, these two murders are exactly the same. Ivo and Didace were both journalist, both killed by others trying to silence them, and more importantly both human beings. Yet, for Ivo there was news coverage all over Europe as well as in the US because it was viewed as “shocking”. For Didace, nothing. A couple of minor blips on some blogs here and there. Just a normal day in the Heart of Darkness. Is it time for another trip to Panzi?
We have to stop viewing Africa as a less-than continent where killing is expected given the circumstances. We have to understand that foreign journalists are not serving the citizens of Africa. They are serving Western media conglomerates who work to glorify the violence and not tell the stories. Lastly, we have to understand that we are directly responsible for all of this. There are great swaths of minerals in central Africa that everyone wants to control and profit from. This want causes conflict which then causes a good person like Didace Namujimbo who was just doing his job to be killed all in the name of our being able to buy the next iPhone.
It appears that once done with their weekending, the BBC has gotten around to a scant two sentence mention of Didace.
The Lacking of Balance