Radio Mutaani is the only independent news radio station in Goma, Congo (DRC). Goma is the biggest city in the war-ravaged Eastern Congo, on the Rwandan border.
Independent news media seems a no-brainer in the US. In Congo, being independent has clear advantages and disadvantages.
One advantage, for example, is that Mutaani is free to report on whatever its editorial leaders choose. There’s no political party or wealthy businessman deciding the agenda. On the flip side, however, access is a continual problem. Why would anyone speak to a journalist who cannot be bought and controlled?
In a place where there is no freedom of the press, where politicians, the military, armed groups and wealthy businesspeople operate outside the law, and where basic safety is a real concern, what are investigative best practices? How can journalists be most effective? How can investigations have the highest levels of impact?
We spent our time digging into reporting and publication strategies.
For example, how can local journalists get the information they need for a story when government officials, NGOs and businesspeople are all suspicious of them?
One way is to report around the story. That is, do several easy / friendly stories that will get you closer to the sources you need for your investigation. Build trust and become a familiar face. Then start asking the harder questions.
Another question: how to deliver the news when hard-hitting journalism could have literally lethal consequences for journalists, sources and news outlets?
In DRC, publication can be just as tricky as getting the story, itself. Sometimes, partnering with Western journalists is not just necessary but crucial. NGOs can also be publication partners.
Local journalists have myriad strengths that Western reporters never will – an ability to “go local” and get people talking more openly and honestly.
But sometimes the power of Western press is necessary to have the type of editorial impacts needed in places like DRC.