Michèle Ouimet of La Presse, Montréal, trains journalists in Kinshasa and Bukavu, the Democratic Republic of Congo

TORONTO, May 29, 2017 /CNW/ - Journalists for Human Rights launched a new partnership with La Presse by sending top reporter Michèle Ouimet to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. For the past month, Ouimet has been on assignment training journalists in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Bukavu, a city in eastern DRC.

Journalists in Congo work in extraordinarily difficult circumstances. They are paid as little as $70 a month. News outlets are dependent on dealings with politicians or businesses for their income and are often engaged by politicians or companies to produce a flattering story on the opening of a new building or the launch of a new product. Most journalists are not happy with this, but see no other way to earn extra funds outside their meagre salaries.  Female journalists in particular battle gender-based discrimination on a regular basis. 

Despite the difficult circumstances, Congolese journalists, with JHR's support, persevere to tell stories about human rights issues that matter to them. Stories JHR has mentored have exposed corruption in universities, the need to fund a school for the deaf, and called for action from City Hall to support street kids in Kinshasa. 

Michèle ran workshops and discussed ethics and journalistic principles with journalists and journalism students at L'école Technique du Journalisme (ETJ) in Bukavu. The journalists and students were passionate during the workshops and went over practical skills such as writing techniques, but also discussed and debated the limits of freedom of expression and how to draw the line between private and public life. ETJ is a journalism school set up in Bukavu by JHR partner Prince Murhula, based on the curriculum from Journalists for Human Rights. That school has now taught over 400 fee-paying students since 2014.

Michèle Ouimet said of her experience in the DRC: "I taught students and journalists. We discussed, among other things, ethics and conflicts of interest. But their difficult working conditions, job insecurity and low wages push them to make compromises that undermine their credibility. They accept money from ministers or corporations. In exchange, they write flattering reports. They know that such a practice is unacceptable, but, they say, if we refuse, how will we feed our families? This is a very pertinent question and one that challenged me, the North American who works in a syndicated newsroom. We thought about it together. Participants were enthusiastic and very open. No subject was taboo."

"We are very proud to have been able to put our shoulders to the wheel, and perhaps help to improve the situation of journalism in the Democratic Republic of the Congo," said the deputy editor of La Presse, Eric Trottier. "In Canada, practicing our profession is relatively easy, and in many countries of the world, journalists risk their lives every day, or simply risk not being able to make a living, because their working conditions are so deplorable. If we, by working together with Journalists for Human Rights, have contributed even a little bit to improve the situation of these journalists, so much the better! By choosing Michèle, who has been one of the best journalists in Canada for over 30 years, I knew that the JHR program in Congo was going to be very successful. "

"We are delighted to be working with La Presse on our Francophone African program," says JHR Executive Director Rachel Pulfer. "Michèle was a dream to work with – professional, focused, impassioned - and we are looking forward to tracking the impact of her contributions."

- Our thanks to CNW Group for sponsoring this announcement -

SOURCE Journalists for Human Rights (JHR)

For further information: For more information on this campaign, please contact Janine deVries at 416 413 0240 x 210 or Janine@jhr.ca

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