The situation in the crisis region of Kivu in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo remains tense. DW-AKADEMIE has been training peace journalists there.
Co-Trainer Hans-Jörg Enz (left) with participants
Congo is turning fifty. Many international media outlets are marking the anniversary by reporting on the state of this crisis-ravaged country in Central Africa. “In Congo itself there are a number of celebrations ordered by those from higher up, but the local journalists are currently preoccupied with issues other than independence,” says Michael Tecklenburg. He has just returned from Bukavu, the provincial capital of South Kivu, which has been in crisis for years. The situation there is a far cry from peaceful coexistence. “Independence alone is not enough,” says Tecklenburg. He is a DW-AKADEMIE media trainer and in June he ran the second part of a workshop on conflict-sensitive journalism. Twenty radio journalists and technicians took part.
In the first week, the journalists practiced various journalistic conventions and radio formats, including how to conduct an interview and edit it sensitively. The technicians focused on improving the sound quality of their recordings. This way the comprehensibility of their reports was improved in both editorial and technical terms. The second week was spent producing listener-oriented reports. “A team drove out of Bukavu to a rural area at four in the morning to accompany women on their 30 kilometer trek from the village to the town market,” reports Tecklenburg. The female reporters then had four hours to talk to the market women about their worries and everyday problems. They learned of tensions not just between ethnic groups, but also between the sexes. Tecklenburg believes a report of this nature can raise people’s awareness of the conflict “by showing clearly the difficult conditions under which women live in Congo.”
The situation in Bukavu and the entire province of South Kivu remains difficult to assess. “Chaos and lawlessness are the order of the day,” says Tecklenburg, “but blaming the many conflicts on ethnic differences is too easy. Yet, he says, that is what journalists often do. Tecklenburg says the reporting is often one-sided and prejudiced. He says DW-AKADEMIE aims to show people alternatives with this project.
A ‘club of conflict-sensitive journalists’ now exists since the first workshop in Congo was held in 2008. “The journalists and broadcasters involved regularly produce a half-hour magazine program together, broadcast once a month on the eight radio stations in Bukavu which have signed up. This helps minimize conflicts and sensitizes people to them,” says Tecklenburg. It is important to stress what people have in common in a climate where differences can quickly lead to conflicts, he adds. “That is exactly what the radio stations are doing with their magazine program.”
This long-term project is to be continued in the coming year – this time on an international scale: “In future we’ll be inviting journalists from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burundi and Rwanda and offer training courses in all three countries.”
DW-AKADEMIE’s training project is supported by the non-governmental organization EIRENE.