European Union for human rights organised in Kigali, a public dialogue on freedom of expression and media transformation. Participants notice a legal framework, but still there is a long way to independence.

“ Media will never be independent, as long as journalists need the government, donors or media bosses to survive”, says Arthur Asiimwe, Ditector General of RBA.

Panelist include media experts like Dr Margaret Jjuuko, Lecturer at University of Rwanda, Muganwa Gonza from Association of Rwandan Journalists (ARJ), Joe Ageyo from KTN news of Kenya, Dr Jaromir Marek from Czech Radio, and Arthur Asiimwe of Rwanda Broadcasting Agency. Participants are journalists and other personalities from institutions, partners of media or working in human rights domain.

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Freedom is not independence

The existence of Rwanda Media Commission (RMC) as a self regulatory body, with a legal provision of Media law and Access to Information law, gives a clear image that journalists work freely. However, media is far from being independent. “Media has become a business, and business problems affect a journalistic work”, says Gonzaga Muganwa, Executive Secretary of ARJ.

Director of Rwanda Broadcasting Agency, Arthur Asiimwe

Journalists always need support from the government or from its institutions. They also need resources from the diplomatic community, and seek jobs  from investors. This can never make them independent. Sehene Ruvugiro Emmanuel, is a senior journalist, he mentions that media cannot be independent, while operating in a dependant society.

His point is about the national context, which Dr Margaret  explains more. “The content of media must match with the context, based on historical and political background of a given country”, she argues. As the matter of facts, this is what Arthur of RBA illustrates, “cut your coat on your size”.

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Among other challenges of freedom of expression, is the society which is media illiterate. The law no 04/2013 provides guidelines of getting information from public and private institutions, but the whole community is still resistant against media. Gonza says, “Courageous journalists need support and resources to get information. However, the civil society keep quiet, the private sector is quiet, the diplomatic community does the same. Journalists can’t report and be the sources at the same time”.

Where from Censorship or self censorship?

Journalists often censure themselves, or are censured by their bosses with their editorial lines. Marcel  Museminari  is one of media owners in Rwanda, he says “The diplomatic community is in complicity with the government to censure media. Politicians are investing in media, diplomatic community supports media via the government, and politicians are the ones to know which media to get sponsored”.

Dr Jjuuko Margaret, The senior lecturer at UR in Journalism and Communication

Meanwhile, there is a great responsibility of journalists in their censure ship, according to Dr Ryarasa Nkurunziza Joseph, from Never Again Rwanda. “There are some radios who report on service delivery at village up to sector level. They never analyze the President’s speech; they don’t analyze the cabinet decisions or a given policy. Who censure them from that?

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All in all, media in Rwanda is free, but never independent. Journalists have rights to get information, analyze the information and see how to publish it observing the national context and in accordance with editorial line from media house. “Rights on information, never mean rights after publication.”

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Jean Baptiste Karegeya

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