Journalists challenged on upholding media principles


(L-R) The guest of honour, the Minister for Justice, Johnston Busingye chats with Anastase Shyaka, the CEO of Rwanda Governance Board at the African Information Day celebrated in Kigali yesterday. (All photos by Timothy Kisambira.)

Media practitioners have called for more emphasis on principles of independence, fairness and accountability as prime kits to tell the African story through the African media.

Driven by the concept of ‘Africa that we want’ motto through the ‘Africa Media that we want’ mantra, the call was made when journalists gathered in Kigali, yesterday, for the Africa Information Day, which was celebrated in parallel with the eighth National Media Dialogue.

This, officials said, should reflect and build on the positive stories, structures and reforms that have continuously been emerging to transform positively the Rwandan media landscape.

Minister for Justice, Johnston Busingye gives his opening remarks at the meeting in Kigali.

Johnston Busingye, the minister for justice and attorney-general, said it is therole of the media to take its story to the greatest height and defy the past negative narrative that has always been fueled by hostile western media institutions.

“In the past our story (Rwanda) was told as a tiny, overpopulated, ethnically divided and poor people country, it is up to the media to challenge such narrative,” he said.

Albert Rudatsimburwa head of contact FM asks a question during the meeting. 

“Most of the time our positive stories were underreported, unreported or distorted, the story outside there has been nothing else other than one of disease, corruption, wars; this is an opportune moment to see how better we can position African media with other positive stories on the global landscapes.”

Minister Busingye reiterated that the drive to promote the ‘Africa media that we want’ motto fits well with the ongoing African Union reforms to make the continent more reliable on itself other than looking for aid from Western donors.

Challenged by issues around the ability to tell Africa’s own and actual stories, the media fraternity equally resounded the need for more professionalism, state support for financial avenues to allow independent media but, more importantly, on how to get rid of the often Western narratives on the status quo of African affairs.

Enhancing professionalism

Kabral Blay Amihere, a Ghanaian media consultant, who was on a panel of experts to discuss the role of the media in Africa’s development, said there is need for states to enhance professionalism to help media tell the African story from a perspective that is as professional as possible.

Amihere (C) speaks on a panel discussion as Arthur Asiimwe, head of Rwanda Broadcasting Agency (L) and Fred Golooba-Mutebi, a researcher and lecturer Makerere University, Uganda, look on yesterday. (T. Kisambira.)

“We need to enhance capacity because the issue of quantity is fair, but the quality, competence; we need to work on those. There is a need to promote social media, because the numbers in Africa are far way behind the West; this will help in telling the true African story in due time,” he said.

Amihere, however, said by telling the stories, journalists should not be mouthpiece of their states but rather people’s representatives who will front public needs before responsible authority, educate and inform the people while setting the agenda.

“States should move on to create an enabling atmosphere for the press to take advantage of the infrastructure, they are not obliged to be mouthpieces for government, rather seeing themselves as representatives of the people, and reflecting the people’s need,” he added.

Prof. Anastase Shyaka, the chief executive of Rwanda Governance Board, whose agency oversees the regulation of the media in the country, argued that several reforms in the past have helped the country to tilt the sector in the right direction.

Dr Christopher Kayumba, a researcher and political analyst speaks during the event in Kigali. 

“Information that we share should be at the heart of Africa’s transformation and to the Africa we want as it was agreed upon recently by the African leaders,” he said.

The One UN resident coordinator, Lamine Manneh, commended The media for their continous efforts to inform that public on matters that affect their daily lives. He also commended the government for its efforts to enhance the media landscape and pledged continued support to media development as a key ingredients to deepening democracy.

Ondrej Simek, head of political press and information section at the European Union, said the media landscape both in the western world and in Africa share some commonalities, although adequate training to journalists, acquiring reliable sources, and creating more efficient financing, are obstacles the Rwandan media can address to be able to move toward “the media we want.”

“These are all challenges that need to be addressed, and they certainly don’t differ in the media, West or East,” he said.

Kabral Blay Amihere, a Ghanaian media consultant speaks during the meeting.

In their recommendations, the dialogue called on African states to create a hospitable environment for media to ensure an unbiased press, by encouraging dialogue that promotes social responsibility.

The media’s role as an educational tool to aid in development and democracy was also stressed, not simply relying on the negative issues that are happening in Africa and not to toe the line of distortion and hostile Western media that have been infamous for portraying the continent negatively.

The media was also encouraged to restrategise business plan, so the press can thrive and adapt to new technologies while still maintaining profits.

Haron Mwangi, the Chief Executive Officer of the Media Council of Kenya speaks during the meeting in Kigali.