One of the basic principles of journalism ethics is that we don’t accept payment from sources in return for writing about particular people or subjects. The reasons for this are fairly obvious, but perhaps one of the more overlooked effects is that when journalists ignore this rule, we silence those without deep pockets. While reporting in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, I heard about how this journalistic ethical lapse is hurting women’s political participation.
In Kinshasa I interviewed female political candidates running for seats in provincial and national assemblies. Women are sharply underrepresented in politics in the DRC, and they face an array of challenges when running for office. One of those hurdles is lack of funding. Limited funds make it harder for them to get their messages out and connect with voters, they told me — not least because they often have to pay for media coverage. If they want journalists to come out and cover their campaigns, or interview them, it often requires a financial exchange, they said. That disproportionately hurts women candidates because on average they already have less money than male politicians — both personally and from their parties. Many parties won’t spend much on female candidates because they consider them unlikely to win.
It’s yet another obstacle to overcome for women who enter politics in the DRC, and one that’s compounded by unethical journalistic practices.
Kristen Chick, DRC Reporting Fellow (August 2018)