Today is World Press Day, a day that was set aside by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) in recognition of the media’s contribution towards the development of nations and their people, and explore how best to enhance and better media practice in a quest to provide information to the people in a professional manner.
This year’s theme, access to information, is central to exercising freedom of expression which is a treasured tenet in the media. Minister of Information Louise Mushikiwabo underscored the same message yesterday while addressing Rwandan and foreign media, and urged recalcitrant government officials to avail information to the media, as it helps the sector to disseminate correct and updated information to the citizens.
There is a lot to develop in the media here in our country. The industry still suffers from lack of trained and therefore professional journalists, and for many so-called independent publications, it is a real struggle to bring out information that has been obtained objectively and following proper ethical practices. There are times when publications seek to gain cheap popularity by going unprofessional - poorly or non-researched stories based on rumours or downright concocted stories whose main protagonists are never given any chance to substantiate anything.
This is the core of the problem. The widespread lack of professional journalism in the country, unknown to the world as a major problem here, is hailed as being intrepid in the face of a government that advises caution given our special circumstances, or even plain professionalism.
Rwanda, it should be remembered, has had a sad history regarding the media’s participation in the Genocide of 1994. Thus the call for objective reporting is not even a preserve for Rwanda alone; it is mandatory everywhere.
As we celebrate press day, the media fraternity need to examine the courses open to practicing ethical journalism, even before putting officials under the obligation to release information for publication. It is a symbiotic relationship - information is only given to people who will put it to proper use, not for extortion.