Reporters without Borders (RSF) published yesterday, 26 April the 2017 World Press Freedom Index, ranking Burundi after Rwanda. It qualifies Rwandan media, 159th position, as Ubiquitous censorship and self-censorship, to mean censorship is wherever. For Burundi, brother country, no media freedom at all, on 160th.
The report says, “Despite a new media law in 2010 and efforts to develop Internet connections throughout the country, censorship and self-censorship are ubiquitous in Rwanda. The specter of the 1994 genocide is still used to brand media critical of the government as “divisionism.”
Beside this, it does not mention the Access to Information law of 2013, and establishment of Rwanda Media Commission, a self-regulatory body.
“In 2015, the government banned BBC radio broadcasting in the local Kinyarwanda language after a BBC TV documentary referred to the deaths that took place during the advance on Kigali in 1994 by Rwandan Patriotic Front rebels led by Paul Kagame, now Rwanda’s President”.
There have been fewer abuses against journalists in recent years, as most of them have fled abroad. The presidential election scheduled for August 2017, in which Kagame is using a constitutional amendment to seek another term, could easily expose the media to renewed tension.
Back to Burundi, “The situation has become more complex since the 2015 crisis. Most independent radio stations have remained closed since the May 2015 coup attempt, but new government propaganda media outlets have been created”, states the reports.
This to note, that many journalist fled Burundi, where a hundred is in Rwanda, others in neighboring countries.
To add, journalists find it hard to work freely and are often harassed by the security forces, who are encouraged by an official discourse associating non-aligned media with enemies of the nation. The case of Jean Bigirimana, of Iwacu press who disappeared in July 2016, is still pending.
According to RSF, Burundian authorities do not hesitate to summon news editors to “correct” their stories. Dozens of journalists have fled the country and some of them are charged with being complicit in the coup attempt.
Social networks serve as news outlets, replacing the gagged radio stations. However, they are also often used by the government in an attempt to silence and censor.
Rwandan media officials disagree with allegations, as no complain from journalists has been received. Emmanuel Mugisha, Executive Secretary talks with Bwiza.com. “The report is wrong, those are lies, among complains we received, no journalist came accusing his editor or anyone else for influencing his publication with supporting facts. Journalists are free to publish truth with facts, no one can prevent them as the report says”.
However, Rwandan government works hard to train professional journalists, who couldn’t orient audience dark moments of divisionism like those of 1994.
A journalist of today, is a good citizen, with positive morality, of values such as patriotism, impartiality and peacemaking. As the matter of fact, the report gets out, while 160 journalists end a training session “ Itorero”, about civic education. With phase one of Impamyabigwi, the country counts about 280 trained journalists.
Jean Baptiste Karegeya