A few weeks ago, ONG People Online (my NGO) held its first press conference. To be more precise, one of the newspapers with whom we work held the press conference to launch their new site.
First, realize that despite Benin’s high ranking on scales that measure the freedom of their press, the press in Benin is neither free as in libre nor free as in beer. A few days before the conference, the newspaper sent out letters of invitation to the other major press organs of Cotonou, including the national TV and radio stations.
The day of the conference arrived, and we set-up in a conference room in my old work partner’s building, where the newspaper rents its offices. After several disasters, including no space, a filthy room, no power, and no internet connection, Bertrand and I were able to set-up the room, plug in our laptops, and test our video projector. The video projector didn’t work either. We were, however, finally able to get our Internet connection working. An hour after we were supposed to start, the television crew finally showed up.
Bertrand gave a speech. I presented the site. The paper’s editor gave a speech. There were three questions, only one of which was relevant. We thanked everyone, then gave out Cokes and sandwiches (food is obligatory at these sorts of things, apparently).
Turns out, before the reporters left, they had to collect their “per diem”. Their what?!?!?. That’s right. “To cover the costs of transportation.” Later, we learned that if you don’t pay the journalists, they won’t copy and paste your press materials into an article for their newspaper. In fact, for *any* news event, journalists receive a hefty “honoraria” just to do their jobs.
We were in all the newspapers, on several radio stations, and on TV. Only the paper hosting the event will be able to tell if it was worth it or not.