Wheels up to the Democratic Republic of Congo: Why am I going?
M23 rebels sit in a vehicle as they withdraw from the eastern Congo town of Goma in this Dec. 1, 2012 file photo. (AP / Jerome Delay)
This Thursday I’m headed to the Democratic Republic of Congo with Canadian based Journalists for Human Rights, a remarkable organization that supports and trains journalists who are working in some of the world’s most difficult conditions in sub-Saharan Africa.
The agency has spent more than a decade helping local journalists overcome significant obstacles -- from a lack of basic resources to government intimidation and corruption -- to report their stories safely and fairly.
These reporters, editors, producers and photographers have never known what it’s like to work in the kind of free press environment we enjoy here in Canada. For a story like the Senate housing expenses scandal, our own Bob Fife (@robertfife) can dig up those crucially important details day after day without fearing for his life. In the DRC and many other places around the world, journalists who question authority can end up in jail, or dead.
In the DRC, journalists, in fact all citizens must work and live in some of the most dire conditions on earth. On the 2011 Human Development Index, the DRC ranked last -- 187th out of 187. It’s a place where average life expectancy is just 56 years, the literacy rate is 67 per cent (57 per cent for females), and where 71 per cent of people live below the poverty line.
During my 10 days in the DRC, I will be meeting with local journalists in Kinshasa and Goma, particularly women, for an exchange of experiences - inspiration and learning that will go both ways.
I'll be job shadowing, so to speak, on a number of stories and see first hand the obstacles these brave young reporters face.
This trip is important to me because when journalists are threatened and bullied, anywhere, it is personal for all of us. You can't have democracy without a free press and you can't have a free press without democracy.
I know I will be meeting some remarkable people during my travels and plan on posting blogs, photographs and videos so that I can share their stories with you. (Fingers crossed I can find an internet connection!)
As always I'd love your feedback.
For more information about Journalists for Human Rights, you can visit: http://www.jhr.ca/en/