Per diem payments as a form of censorship and control: the case of Guinea-Bissau’s journalism

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This article discusses the habit of politicians paying journalists per diem rates in exchange for media coverage. Although bribery and money incentives have been studied as practices that compromise the ethics of journalism in several African countries, this paper researches Guinea-Bissau as an example and establishes a distinction. Unlike bribery, the widespread payment of these stipends is legal, but it is chronically damaging for freedom of expression and professional integrity. Drawing on interviews, focus groups and ethnographic observation with professionals from national, local and community media, this paper documents the precarious state of journalism in Guinea-Bissau, particularly the sector's acute lack of financial resources and meagre wages. News sources, and dominantly the government and parties, organise multiple events, attracting coverage in exchange for remuneration. Accepting these payments is, for many journalists, the only possible mode of subsisting, despite compromising their independence. News coverage is consequently saturated with propaganda, and forms of investigative journalism are rare. This article argues that the payment of per diem rates, accepted as legitimate and common practice in several other countries, has led to a pervasive control of journalism.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2349-2365
Number of pages17
JournalJournalism Studies
Issue number16
Early online date19 Mar 2019
Publication statusPublished - 31 Oct 2019


  • brown envelope journalism
  • corruption
  • Guinea-Bissau
  • per diem
  • poverty
  • press freedom
  • press regulation
  • professional ethics


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