A research on Media and Policy Making in Rwanda was published today, by PAXPRESS, and aimed at assessing media content about public policy process, challenges and ways forward. Dr Christopher Kayumba, academic researcher, says journalist only publish policy makers views, as they do not have enough means to reach citizens.
Findings of the survey show that the content of all media categories( Radio, TV, Print and Online), 71.2% is from top leaders, while only 28% is from elsewhere. Furthermore, 45.8% covers meetings held in Kigali, the capital.
About professional media existence in Rwanda, 10 % interviwees attest Rwanda media is professional, but 50.6% say no, while 37.6% are neutral(middle).
From 17 media houses targeted by the research, 94.2% agree working on public policies, but 51.1% of stories cover achievements, whereas 2.1% do investigation and 13.7 % make feature stories.
Journalists who participated in this survey perceive their own media houses on average as “poorly equipped” by a general score of 47.8%, with radios stations as the worst off at 50%, television 49.6%; print media 47.9% and online media 43.4%.
This finding is tune with experiences of journalists in certain media houses who say that, in some cases, even simple equipment like recorders; cameras, pens and notebooks are in short supply in some media houses.It is difficult to do professional journalism and report policy effectively without having adequate tools to do so.
Media success in covering and reporting policies or any other field depends on the skills and competences possessed by journalists; their editors and leaders.
On average, 55.9% of respondents say media outs are “poorly equipped” and only 40.9% say they are “properly equipped”; with the print media considered as the most “poorly equipped” at 59.8% and television in second place at 56.8% with online media in third place at 56% and radio fourth at 51%.
This low skills is also illustrated in other studies conducted on the media in the country such as the 2013 and 2016 Media Barometers.
Apart from equipment at the level of the individual, journalists who participated in this study also evaluated their own media outlets on the indicator of the extent they are equipped to investigate and report policy.
Overall, only 11.2% say their media outlets are “very equipped” and 39.5% saying they are “poorly equipped”.In this category, privately owned radio stations are more “poorly equipped” than other categories with 51.8% finding them to be so compared to 44.3% in the print media; 43.3% in privately owned television; online media 36.2%; public radio 28.3% and public television 27.9%.
The type of legal, political and economic environments available in a country is also considered to determine whether or not the media will cover and report policy effectively and independently.
In part, it is also the same environment that determines whether or not the media holds power to account and influences policy. Overall, 97.8% of media owners and managers perceive the legal environment to be conducive compared to 69.5% CSOs and 55.9% journalists.
This finding is in consonant with findings in the Rwanda Media Barometer 2016 that also showed that perception of the legal environment being conducive is high; although, of course, journalists still consider criminal defamation to be a problematic as well access to information despite the existence of the access to information bill.
The economic environment refer to whether or not the media is able to fund its activities without constraints or whether there are restrictions. Only 45.8% of journalists believe the economic environment to be conducive compared to 70.4% media owners and managers and 71.3% CSOs.
Overall, 62.5% of respondents believe the environment is conducive; an indicator that is also low and in line with other studies that have highlighted the difficulty media outlets have sustaining themselves economically. Among published stories, 84.9% support public stories, 6% challenge them, while 0.3% are impartial.
According to researchers, this makes a deep gap to prevent citizens participation in public policy process, as 32.5% come from meetings or talks between leaders and journalists, and only 4.2% come from citizens.
Albert Baudouin Twizeyimana, National Coordinator of PAXPRESS notices the gap results from journalists’ inactivity during the policy elaboration, and work passively during implementation.
On behalf of Dr Christopher Kayumba, the researcher, says there still a way to go, but compulsory because consequences come upon the citizen.
“There is no inputs from the citizen, therefore he is not aware of the policy and feels no concerned with it. Moreover, leaders only talk of success in general meetings, but never touch on failures. So, if a journalist reports on leaders speeches, the public will never know their weaknesses”.
Respondents to this survey include 238 media practitioners, 121 media officials, and 268 civil society activists. The research was conducted since September to November 2016, by PAXPRESS under sponsorship of NPA(Norvegian People’s Aid).
Jean Baptiste Karegeya