PARLIAMENT - Barely months after parliament passed the Media Bill and forwarded it to President Paul Kagame for promulgation, the Head of State has sent it back to the lawmakers with some proposed amendments.
Yesterday, Information Minister Louise Mushikiwabo re-tabled the bill before the house and outlined President Paul Kagame’s concerns on some of the articles in the bill and their amendment proposals.
Article 108 of the Constitution gives the President mandate to send back any legislation that he or she thinks needs amendments to parliament, even before promulgation.
“His excellency decided to make some changes in the bill you voted for after consulting various stakeholders, I am therefore requesting parliament to reconsider the proposed amendments,” Mushikiwabo told the House.
Parliament unanimously passed the bill in February this year despite different concerns raised by practitioners at different platforms, prompting them to petition the President.
According to Mushikiwabo, amendments were proposed in articles concerning the definition of a journalist, qualifications, and how investigations are carried out when the crimes are committed by a journalist.
The proposed amendment guarantees free access to information while the first one provided stipulated that a journalist first seek permission to get information.
“Asking the permission to collect or simulate information…. is required only when using some one’s materials that have copy right,” the amendment reads in part.
The qualification which was determined in the former bill is left open however; the new amendment advises the journalist who studied other disciplines to get training in journalism.
Qualification was among the major issues of contention in the bill as it was said that for a person to practice, he or she was supposed to have at least a degree in journalism.
Another proposal by the President is that the Chief Editor and other editors be summoned in case a journalist commits a ‘crime’ rather than summoning the reporter. However, it remains vice-versa to the electronic media.
Parliament accepted the amendments and left the job to the standing committee for political affairs to discuss them further.
It remains unclear if the media practitioners will be invited by the House to discuss the rejected bill.
After making their concerns known to the President, media practitioners engaged in series of discussions with Minister Mushikiwabo and they subsequently made their proposals which they sent to the Executive.