Access to information is a legitimate right/obligation to every Rwandan. However, even as the access to information law guarantees journalists and citizens to access information from public, private and other organisations, which is in the interest of the public, custodians of information still make it hard to access information.
These are some of the findings contained in a report on impact assessment on media sector reforms, which was carried out by Rwanda Governance Board (RGB).
The report was presented at the Africa Information Day celebration on Friday at Kigali Convection Center.
It indicated that 24 per cent of the respondents claim to have experienced inconveniences in accessing information that is supposed to be public.
The research found that some public institutions are reluctant to provide information to journalists and the public.
However, concerns were also raised that journalists and members of the public have limited understanding of the laws.
Dr Emmanuel Nibishaka, the Deputy CEO of RGB, emphasised the need to sensitise and enhance compliance with access to information law.
The report revealed that the contribution of access to information law to the promotion of transparency and accountable governance is at 77.2 per cent.
A bug in ethical and professional content
According to the report, liberalisation of the practice of journalism is at 71 per cent and this is said to have resulted in increased media houses especially electronic and online publications that lack financial and management capabilities.
The latter allegedly brought up issues of unprofessional information gathering and unethical content.
It was also found that media in Rwanda is increasingly becoming independent with 76 per cent independent of their funders and 81 per cent devoid of political interference.
Public trust in media rose to 96 per cent from 72.4 per cent in 2018.
The contribution of media in promoting unity and reconciliation is at 80 per cent, while its role in promoting gender equality is at 81 per cent, the report says.
The lowest percentage of the report’s findings is the treatment and legal recognition of freelance journalists, which is at 66 per cent.
On the matter, the audience suggested that legal facilitation to freelancers be boosted.
About capacity building in journalism, respondents revealed that the trainings given by Media High Council, a media capacity-building public body, is at 78 per cent relevant.
It also indicated that almost 50 per cent of Rwandans are not aware of media regulatory bodies.
In a panel discussion about the report’s findings, panellists underlined that to address issues presented, journalists need to be competent, self-regulated and financially resourceful.
“In Rwanda, media self-regulation exists only in books because journalists are super-dependent on money providers. We also need to have less theory-driven courses in our journalism school to have qualified journalist,” said Christopher Kayumba, media owner and a journalism lecturer at the University of Rwanda.
Arthur Asiimwe, Director General of Rwanda Broadcasting Agency (RBA), also expressed concerns on the media market.
Advertiser interest and public interest are the two competing responsibilities that are hard to manage, he said.
“We also need to make money.” His comment came after the report revealed that RBA serves public interest at 73 per cent.
The local media industry witnessed various reforms in 2014, introducing laws such as the one on access to information and ushering in a media self-regulatory mechanism.