As Rwandans prepare to begin the 24th commemoration of the Genocide against the Tutsi, officials Thursday urged local media practitioners to play their rightful role during the period by countering any messages that could be harmful to society.
The message was delivered at Police Headquarters in Kigali during an interactive session that brought together with different senior government officials, as well as the top leadership of the Rwanda National Police and Rwandan journalists.
The session was also attended by the Minister for Sports and Culture, Julienne Uwacu, and the Executive Secretary of the National Commission for the Fight against Genocide (CNLG), Jean-Damascène Bizimana.
Next week, from April 7, Rwandans will begin a week-long commemoration activities to mark the 24th anniversary of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, which claimed more than a million lives in three months.
Minister Uwacu told journalists that whatever they say is picked up by the rest of the population and used as an example to follow, hence the need to be exemplary communicators during the Genocide commemoration period and promote the unity of Rwandans.
“We should work together to prepare Rwandans for this period because it’s always a difficult time and we never get used to it. The media should work harder during this commemoration period because our detractors also use the media to destroy us,” she said.
She added: “It’s time to use our media skills and capacities to tell our own history and how we are rebuilding our lives.”
She especially warned that entertainment journalists will have to change the tone during the commemoration week because it’s a time to mourn the dead and people are generally not ready for some of the entertainment talk shows.
“It’s time to be closer to each other as Rwandans, we should know how to behave during this time. Things like entertainment should be limited during this period and showbiz journalists should understand that they will have to be patient during the time,” she said.
The Inspector General of Police, Emmanuel Gasana, called for continued partnership between the media fraternity and the police and said the two should work together to keep Rwandans safe during the commemoration week.
“Let’s continue the partnership because as the police we need to work with other stakeholders to achieve our mission. It’s important that we work together to detect any cases of wrongdoing during this period,” he said.
Journalists were especially warned about the possible abuse of online media platforms during the mourning week and were tipped on countering any messages that might be provocative.
Cleophas Barore, the Chairman of the Rwanda Media Commission (RMC), the media self-regulatory body, warned journalists about the abuse of online platforms by media users, especially commentators.
“There are comments that are made by readers on stories published online and that’s where people tend to send inflammatory messages,” he said, tipping journalists on always verifying information they receive before posting it.
“We shouldn’t use social media to disseminate dangerous information,” he said.
CNLG’s Executive Secretary said that online comments in the media are often cause for concern, especially when they are from Genocide deniers and those who undermine efforts by the current Government of Rwanda to unite Rwandans.
“Beware of those comments because they are often sent by people who live outside the country with view to maliciously attack Rwanda’s top leadership,” Bizimana said.
He said that events related to the Genocide commemoration week will be held at the village level, with Rwandans taking time off to discuss three topics, including the difference between Genocide and other atrocities, major evidence for the Genocide against Tutsi, and the uniqueness of Rwanda in overcoming Genocide consequences.