Freedom of the Press - Congo, Republic of (Brazzaville) (2006)

Status: Partly Free
Legal Environment: 17
Political Influences: 17
Economic Pressures: 17
Total Score: 51

Population: n/a
GNI/capita: n/a
Life Expectancy: 52
Religious Groups: Christian (50 percent), animist (48 percent), Muslim (2 percent)
Ethnic Groups: Kongo (48 percent), Sangha (20 percent), Teke (17 percent), M'Bochi (12 percent), other (3 percent)
Capital: Brazzaville

The constitution provides for freedom of the press, but many types of speech are considered to be criminal offenses, including incitement to ethnic hatred and violence, for which the government has been known to hand down harsh prison sentences. Libel is generally punishable only by monetary fines, following legal improvements made by the government in 2001. Nonetheless, these fines are often excessive and quickly handed down to publications critical of the government. Local stringers for international media outlets, as well as those employed by the state-run media, sometimes have their accreditation revoked if their reporting was perceived to portray the government in a bad light.

In 2005, over 15 private weekly newspapers published in Brazzaville and provided scrutiny of the government, though few were readily available in rural areas. There were no reported incidents of interference by authorities with the work of the private press, although government journalists are not independent and are expected to report positively on government activities and priorities. Officially, the state does not publish its own newspapers, but a number of publications are believed to be allied with the regime of President Denis Sassou-Nguesso. Radio remains the best means of reaching large audiences nationwide. The government has been slow to loosen its grip on the broadcast sector and continues to run three radio stations, Radio Congo, Radio Brazzaville, and Radio FM, and one television station, Tele Congo. Political parties are not permitted to own radio stations or television channels, and though several private radio and television stations have won permission to broadcast in recent years, they all present pro-government views. Nevertheless, a wide range of satellite television connections is freely available. In the most recent census taken in 2003, there were 46 registered internet hosts and 15,000 registered users in Congo; the government is not known to restrict online traffic or content.

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