Rwanda media: It takes three to tango

The term ‘hate speech’ is best associated with the Genocide against the Tutsi in 1994. Journalists went out of their usual mandate of educating, informing and entertaining to become fully complicit in the massacre of over a million Tutsi’s. This left a big hole in Rwanda’s media as many of these either fled the country or found themselves in the firm grip of the judiciary. That is why the two announcements made this week with regards developments in Rwanda’s media carry much importance. The Parliament and Senate have been locked in a serious and intense discussion on the soon to be signed into law Media Bill. The law which governs the operations of the media was subjected to much scrutiny by the legislators, it defines and regulates the functions of the media both print and broadcasting. It also sets out the mandate for the media regulatory body, the Media High Council, whose function is to protect and promote the press, including the protection of consumers of information.

The term ‘hate speech’ is best associated with the Genocide against the Tutsi in 1994. Journalists went out of their usual mandate of educating, informing and entertaining to become fully complicit in the massacre of over a million Tutsi’s.

This left a big hole in Rwanda’s media as many of these either fled the country or found themselves in the firm grip of the judiciary.

That is why the two announcements made this week with regards developments in Rwanda’s media carry much importance.

The Parliament and Senate have been locked in a serious and intense discussion on the soon to be signed into law Media Bill.

The law which governs the operations of the media was subjected to much scrutiny by the legislators, it defines and regulates the functions of the media both print and broadcasting.

It also sets out the mandate for the media regulatory body, the Media High Council, whose function is to protect and promote the press, including the protection of consumers of information.

The legislators locked horns over a little technicality of one particular article concerning the money required for investors to set up a media house.

This is a minor but important detail given the announcement today, by the Minister of Information and Government spokesperson, Louise Mushikiwabo, that the Kenyan based Nation Media Group (NMG), the largest independent media house in the region, is set to launch its operations in Rwanda.

Coming from Kenya, the group would already understand the complexities of such endeavours given the excruciating debate taking place there with regards to media operations.

This debate has not been limited to Rwanda’s parliament or to Kenyans alone, even in South-Africa with the much celebrated media diversity they have also been locked in their own intense debate on the same topic.

Each country will use it own historical context to define the operations of the media. In this whole set up it takes three to tango; the consumers, the producers (print and broadcast media) and the government. 

It is instructive therefore that a balance be struck between the three through an independent regulatory body in the case of Rwanda, the High Media Council.

This body is sufficiently, empowered legislatively, to carry out its work of regulating the licensing and the day to day operations of all media houses.

Ends

 

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