April 24th, 2008 | researchmaterial
In the Republic of the Congo, I was told by the organisers of a civil society workshop that they were struggling to raise funds to pay journalists to cover their event. And the amounts were not insignificant, mind you. They ranged from US$30 to US$50 per journalist, which, for a poorly resourced organisation was difficult to find. Every journalist expected to be paid, with extras demanded for any camera crew.
I later found out that this pay-for-stories practice is widely accepted in the journalism profession in Senegal, Cameroon, Mali and Gabon, among other countries. I understand it happens in Anglophone Africa too, but my own experience of its pervasiveness is limited to French-speaking countries.
For those who don’t think this odd, these are full-time employed journalists already paid a salary by their media houses. Payments for covering particular events are in addition to their monthly pay checks.
Attempting to understand this unusual practice, I speculated that there may be a political angle, with the system designed to discourage smaller non-governmental organisations from forcing their issues onto the national agenda, especially where many news agencies are state-owned.