The Democratic Republic of the Congo has expelled a journalist named Sonia Rolley who works for Reuters. She had been working in DRC for years and had recently applied for media accreditation. Rolley was allowed to cover the pre-Cop 27 climate conference in the capital Kinshasa.
But on Tuesday, the immigration police summoned her, seized her passport and put her on a plane bound for Paris. Reuters stated that the DRC government didn’t give her any reason for the expulsion. International organisations such as the United Nations and Amnesty International criticised DRC’s decision.
Amnesty in a statement said, “This decision by the authorities illustrates the dangerous climate in which the media operate in the DRC.”
Frankly speaking, the problem is not with the DRC but the point of view of Western media. Western media’s perspective regarding Africa is problematic. It represents an ignorance which originates from a lack of research and understanding about Africa. In most cases, Western media’s reporting on Africa is driven by a narrative fabricated in Western capitals.
Western news reporting is depicted as unbiased and neutral. It is often portrayed without a historical context and rationale. It always focuses on the negative aspects of Africa. Negative developments in the continent are more favourable to the Western media.
For instance, in 2019, the New York Times posted a job opening for its Nairobi bureau chief in Kenya which created controversy and highlighted its biased depiction of Africa. The ad stated that the right candidate for the role would have an opportunity “to delight our readers with unexpected stories of hope and the changing rhythms of life in a rapidly evolving region.” The ad was criticised as it tried to portray that nobody expected positive stories to emerge out of Africa.
Similarly, during the Ethiopian Airlines plane crash of 2019, which led to the death of 157 people, most Western media houses focused on victims from the US and Europe but didn’t give enough coverage to Kenya, which lost 32 of its citizens in the crash, the highest number of casualty a country had witnessed. An anchor of TRT World suggested that the Ethiopian national airliner had a poor safety record which was later debunked by an aviation expert.
When it comes to the DRC’s crisis, the media has always presented an incomplete picture. We at TFI explained that Rwanda finances M23 rebels, on whose instructions they are committing war crimes against the Congolese people and stealing the mineral resources of the African country. Despite there being widespread evidence of M23’s complicity in the war in east DRC, media houses like Reuters always portray DRC, the victim of this assault, in a bad light. In its coverage of the conflict, there is a misrepresentation of facts as DRC is depicted as the one which is causing human rights abuses.
In Ethiopia’s Tigray crisis too, Western media violated many ethical standards of reporting as the Ethiopian military, which was fighting to defend its country, was accused of genocide and rights violations without any evidence. But the TPLF, which started the civil war and is the aggressor, is shown as a victim.
Western media always goes after those countries which take stances which are viewed by the US and EU as hostile.
A right decision
So, when a flawed organisation like Amnesty International starts defending Sonia Rolley, then it becomes clear that she is not a reliable and impartial journalist.
Journalists and media organisations have an important role to play in shaping public view and perception. What they report, write and publish has an impact on the lives of millions of people around the world.
In light of this, the expulsion of the Reuters journalist from DRC is a welcome move and should be followed by all nations of the continent. As it may appear from Amnesty’s whining, DRC is not choking press freedom by driving out an agenda-driven journalist. Instead, it is protecting the truth.