Control of the mass media has long been a central
Mobutu's domination of Zairian political life. Indeed,
television and radio in particular has been critical to
ability to survive and retain power in the early 1990s. In
assert his authority and undercut the viability of the
government, Mobutu deployed military forces loyal to him
control of state radio and television broadcast facilities
Kinshasa, surrounding the buildings with tanks and troops.
Throughout 1992 and 1993, the military also systematically
the offices of newspapers critical of Mobutu.
During the 1980s, "restructuring" of the press reduced
number of newspapers being issued. In the early 1990s,
three dailies: L'analyste, Elima, and
all of Kinshasa. The Lubumbashi and Kisangani papers,
dailies, had become weeklies after financial problems.
In the aftermath of Mobutu's speech of April 24, 1990,
situation of the press changed dramatically. While
retained its pro-MPR position, Elima became sharply
the regime. Although Elima's editor-publisher spent
time in jail early in 1991, there can be little doubt that
courage opened the field to an independent press. A number
papers and news magazines appeared, mainly weeklies, and
one another in criticizing the government. Because more
of the population does not speak French, there are
appearing in African languages as well as in French.
The only domestic news agency is the regime-controlled
Zaïre-Presse (AZAP). Some foreign agencies, including
France-Presse, Xinhau, and Reuters, also have bureaus in
The regime also practices censorship of foreign media,
forbidding sale of the issue of Jeune Afrique, in
1990, which carried the text of the memorandum of the
bishops on reforms needed in Zaire. Mobutu virtually
this ban had been ineffective, however, by referring in
24 speech to having taken into account "even" the bishops'
It should be noted that newspapers and magazines serve
educated Zairians. The electronic media reach many more
Zaire's population of some 39.1 million. The
station, the Voice of Zaire (La Voix du Zaïre), and
stations could be received on approximately 3.7 million
receivers, as of 1990. The government-operated, commercial
Zaïre Télévision broadcast from Kinshasa, and service was
by satellite to the cities of the interior. In 1990 there
approximately 40,000 televisions in Zaire.
Throughout the Mobutu regime, the content of radio and
television news broadcasts has been tightly controlled.
news follows the official order of protocol, meaning that
of President Mobutu, however routine, comes before any
news of the
prime minister, which in turn precedes any news of other
At the height of the cult of personality in the late 1970s
early 1980s, each television news broadcast began with the
president's face appearing, godlike, in a bank of clouds.
However, the events of 1989-90, when political change
communist states of Eastern Europe and reform occurred in
Africa's party-states, made it clear that the efforts of
Zairian regime to control the flow of information to the
were ineffective. When Mobutu told Zairians that
was not needed in their country, and people in Kinshasa
about "Mobutu Sesesescu," it was clear how capable the
of following international news. The role of Brazzaville
and radio, easily picked up in Kinshasa, and of various
radio stations, also heard elsewhere in Zaire, seems to be
in this respect.
Data as of December 1993