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Last Updated: Friday, 6 October 2006, 15:49 GMT 16:49 UK
Out of Africa
A group of protesters recently gathered at Television Centre in London to protest about the coverage of their homeland, the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Congolese protesters
Protesters outside the BBC
It is a country which has seen huge upheaval in the past decade since a rebellion led by Laurent Kabila deposed the dictator Mobutu Sese Seko. More than four million people died in the ensuing conflict.

Now DR Congo is on the brink of democracy, with the second round of a presidential election due to be held this month.

But some of the UK's growing Congolese population feel there's not enough reporting from their country. "Five million people have died and the BBC never shows anything to the British people," complained one protester outside the BBC, Laurent Mbango Bin-Kitoko.

"Today you are talking about Darfur - how many people in Darfur compared with the Congo? The Congo had five million! The BBC must show all over the world, both positive and negative, what is going on in the Congo for the people to hear and the people to see what is going on."

The BBC's Africa bureau chief, Milton Nkosi, addresses that and the wider problems of covering such a vast - and sometimes dangerous - continent.


I think we can all complain about our level of coverage in parts of the world. I would love to see more coverage of the continent, where there are 54 different countries.

We have covered the Congo for many years. Ten years ago I was there making sure the rebellion mounted by Laurent Kabila was fully covered from the east right across to Kinshasa.

Milton Nkosi
Milton Nkosi: "We have consistently covered Congo"
We have been consistently covering the Congo, especially in recent months when we have seen a peace outbreak, if I can call it that, and we have seen people there finally hoping that the days of war and hunger are coming to an end.

I can understand that Congolese people living in the UK want to know what's happening there, but we also have to bear in mind the rest of our audience who may not be so well-informed.

So there will always be a different approach to stories. In February this year our Africa correspondent, Orla Guerin, did a report about the death toll caused by the collapse of the health service. What we were trying to tell our audiences in the UK was the consequences of war meant the health service failed.

Congolese woman
The BBC has reported on the plight of rape victims
In July, we did a report where we looked specifically at the effects of rape as a war crime and we spoke to the local women and the hospital that helps them. So we can argue about what the angle should be for the British audience but if there is news that is worthy and important we make an effort to get there and get it out.

During the elections we were in Congo, and we had Orla Guerin on the ground reporting for the Six O'Clock News, the Ten O'Clock News, for News 24 and for Radio 4, Radio 5 and all the domestic channels that were interested in the story. We also had our East Africa correspondent, Karen Allen, there.

Humanitarian

We are hoping that we will be on the ground to do the second round of voting we can conclude the whole coverage of the elections. But we are covering far more than that. We are covering human stories, humanitarian coverage, the suffering of the children in the Congo, and the general population - the effects of the war over the years.

Congo voters
Voters queue in DR Congo's first democratic elections
You must also remember that Africa is not always an easy place to operate, and we face the same problems as many of the humanitarian agencies - how do you deliver your services in a safe environment without endangering the lives of your own staff?

We go to dangerous territories with a lot of equipment and it is not easy to transport it round places like the Congo, where the roads and telecommunications systems are not that good. So it is important for us to consider the safety of our staff on the ground when they are there.

Alternative

We are often accused of covering only the bad news from Africa - the wars, the famine, the poverty. But what is the alternative? Does it mean that we leave all those people who are destitute and dying of hunger and say let's forget about them and go and do something nice about business and culture and food and music, because all of that is also happening during these crises that we are covering.

Young mine workers
These mine workers are now able to go to school
I think we do cover good news, but it's not always handily labelled as such. For example, Orla Guerin went to the Katanga province in Congo and filmed underage children working in a mine. We featured three children, and from that report, someone paid for a scholarship so they can go to school.

We did a report from a high school in Kenya, focusing on a young poor guy who was doing really well. As a result, a viewer from Canada got in touch and the boy is now studying medicine in Canada. He has an opportunity of a lifetime which will impact back on his community in Kenya.

Desperate

Wherever we have been and found people desperate for help, and because of our reports help comes in, I think that it in itself a good story.

Comparisons are made with Darfur. We cover Darfur because it is the crisis happening right now. When the rebellion began in 1996 in the east of the Congo, we were there in huge force and the people of Darfur were not saying "Why are you not covering our situation?"

Now they are having elections in the Congo and we are covering that, but we are also in Darfur covering the crisis there. So we have to appreciate that we can't do everything all of the time, but we do make an effort.




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