Sensationalism: Economics or Politics?

Though loved in many parts of Africa, some survey polls in America show that the Americans are not very happy with their president, George W. Bush. It is spray-painted on billboards with angry letters, on, off-course, internet sites indebted to conspiracy theories, and in public parks where citizens enact their most ancient of rights in protest.

Though loved in many parts of Africa, some survey polls in America show that the Americans are not very happy with their president, George W. Bush.

It is spray-painted on billboards with angry letters, on, off-course, internet sites indebted to conspiracy theories, and in public parks where citizens enact their most ancient of rights in protest.

There you can have the name-calling, the outrageous and pointed accusations that may or may not be true. Many times current leaders are compared to the most demonic in history.

But when it comes time to print, to formally submit argument and thought into the forum of debate called mainstream media, though the accusations stand, the pyrotechnics of argument disappear, and what is left, hopefully, is arguments that can stand on their own.

We need this in Rwanda. Too many times, such as this week, do newspapers stray off the course of the argument, into name-calling , and thus stray off the course of self-respect.

The publication of this week’s edition of the vernacular paper Umuseso – and its allowance on the streets of Kigali—should be seen more as an example of remarkable self-restraint amongst the country’s leaders than an example of free press among the publishers.

Whether it is more surprising that such allegations—political entertainment, one could say, that President Paul Kagame is on his way to meeting Milosevic and Charles Taylor as campaigners of genocide—and are actually published seriously, or that they remain today on the streets of Kigali, is hard to say. In places such as Europe or North America, where newspapers are strong and leaders often ridiculed, even this material rarely, if ever, makes it into the printed press.

The vanguard of independent and purposeful media has always been this self-respect, and confident self-assurance among journalists.

For many in Rwanda, sadly, the economics of newspapering call for flashy headlines, whichever words can flutter across the top of a page to sell the morning’s edition faster than the opponent. This is not the way journalism should be. Journalists should not sell their souls for the morning paper; they should sell the truth. And journalists should not undermine their own self-respect, the respect that comes with standing confidently by the truth of your words, to sell a paper.

There is no reward in masquerading circus-acts as journalism, and there is no credibility in it either.

Ends

 

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