As Rwanda commemorates, for the 25th time, the Genocide against the Tutsi, local journalists have been reminded about the media’s role in fuelling violence during the 100 days of the slaughter.
The message was delivered on Tuesday by the Minister for Local Government, Anastase Shyaka, as the media fraternity paid tribute to 60 colleagues who were killed during the Genocide, as well as survivors.
“We had a convergence of action toward (the) Genocide, the convergence of wills that facilitated the execution of the Genocide agenda,” he said.
That convergence, he added, was coming from two very important actors – creators of opinions, journalists, and creators of policies.
“They lost the logic of checks and balance, and the creators of policies managed to marry shapers of opinion and our society entered into darkness.”
The minister also commended Rwanda’s post-Genocide media for its progressive role in the country’s reconciliation efforts and socioeconomic development.
“Surveys we did in the last three to four years showed that the media is coming closer in terms of public satisfaction, above 80 per cent of public opinion say that media is doing a good job,” he added.
Cleophas Barore, the Chairman of the Rwanda Media Commission (RMC), said that journalists should be professional and have the ability to analyse the impact of the messages they convey to their audiences.
“Journalists should avoid being used as instruments of spreading hate and venom. A journalist should verify, analyse and reanalyse the source of information and its potential impact on society before broadcasting, writing or publishing it,” he said.
He added: “We have the ethics to guide us but you should also have your conscience and be able to judge what to inform the public.”
During the discussion, participants called for action against journalists who spread hate messages.
Jean-François Dupaquier, a French journalist, historian and author, said that sometimes journalists should take responsibility fortheir work.
Journalists tend to abuse their independence of opinion, he said.
The evening was also used as a platform for journalists to reflect on their role in social transformation, especially in the context of today’s ever-changing media landscape.