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African Journalism Charging For Coverage

Faten Aggad discusses the practise in parts of Africa where journalists are extracting what is basically baksheesh in return for, you know, doing the job of reportage:

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.

Published in researchmaterial