Internews Helps Local Election Observers to Monitor Electoral Education, Political Speeches and Equal Access to Media During the Difficult Electoral Process in the DRC

The presidential election in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) was scheduled to take place in December 2016 but was delayed last year until December 2018. The situation put the country in political limbo due to the refusal of President Joseph Kabila to step down from office.

Catholic Church led-negotiations led to a transitional agreement, but political disagreements on the enforcement of this agreement led to political blockage, with stronger limitations on public liberties in the country, including press freedom. As a consequence of the political situation, there was a resurgence of local conflicts, notably in the Kasais region and in the Eastern part of the country. The country now faces both a humanitarian crisis and a deteriorating economic situation.

To help journalists navigate the electoral period, Internews published a handbook (in French) – Manuel d’Observation des Médias Pendant la Période Électorale in which Paul Nkuadio, Internews senior media lawyer, covers the role of media in the electoral process, the specific media regulation framework and the basics of media monitoring in the electoral period.

In the DRC, the media legal framework is reinforced during the electoral period. The media regulator, the High Council for Broadcasting and Communication (CSAC, Conseil Supérieur de l’Audiovisuel et de la Communication) issues a Directive establishing specific rules to ensure equal access to candidates and to preserve peace during the campaign and after the announcement of results.

In the second half of 2016, Internews trained 8 trainers from Justice et Paix (formerly Commission Episcopale Justice et Paix, Episcopal Commission Justice and Peace), an organization founded by the Catholic Church, which manages the main domestic electoral observation mission in the DRC. The training sessions aimed to reinforce capacities on the electoral media regulation framework and analysis of political media content.

Manuel d’Observation des Médias Pendant la Période Électorale includes notes provided for these training sessions and additional content on the role of media in the electoral period and the media regulatory framework.

Because it is likely the electoral process will occur in a situation of conflicts, media observation is greatly needed to enable media and civil society to work on the roots of violence, particularly in preventing hate speech and in monitoring equal access of candidates to media.

This activity was funded by the Swiss cooperation, with additional funding from USAID.