RMC reminds journalists to remain impartial while covering polls

Journalists cover a past event. Nadege Imbabazi.

Rwanda media commission (RMC),the media self-regulatory body, has released a set of guidelines for journalists to follow during the coverage of the parliamentary polls. 

Emmanuel Mugisha, the Executive Secretary of RMC, said that the guidelines provide a framework that governs election coverage by journalists as well as media organs to deliver balanced, fair, accurate, reliable and timely information to enable the electorate to make informed decisions.

The body cautioned journalists to be mindful of the peace, security, and unity of the people of Rwanda, saying that these are pillars of development. It said that media freedoms come with responsibilities.

Journalists and media practitioners should be accountable and responsible to the public, the body said in a lengthy document, which was circulated yesterday.

“Though journalists are part of the community, and some of them may have affiliation with certain parties or individuals and they may have tendency to give them more privilege, journalists shall remain impartial in dealing with political parties and candidates, even if they have an interest in a particular party or candidate,” Mugisha said. 

These guidelines, Mugisha said, show journalists where their boundaries are.

The guidelines are captured in 21 points, which include the duty to the candidate, saying that the media should provide a fair platform to all the candidates to communicate their message to the public.

“The media shall respect the relevant laws of the nation during election period and avoid spreading rumours, hate speech and the genocide ideology. The media has a duty to reflect a diversity of voices in its coverage and treat all citizens equally as news subjects and sources,” the document reads in part.

The media was also challenged to fully observe professional standards and values as provided by the Rwanda journalists and media practitioners’ code of ethics.

In addition to being gender sensitive by avoiding all forms of stereotype, journalists were urged to prioritise the inclusion of candidates and voters with disabilities in all reporting of electoral activities.

Specifically, digital reporters should be careful on what they publish on social media platforms because audiences easily identify them with their professional service, RMC warned.

 Therefore, the document says, the same core principles of journalism practiced in mainstream media should govern the conduct of all journalists on social media while acting in their own private capacity online.

Concerning bribes and inducements, Journalists were urged to avoid all actions that could compromise their integrity.

During election period, any political advertorial submitted for publication or as an infomercial for TV, radio, or online placement shall be vetted and published or aired only when it passes these guidelines

 According to the RMC, these guidelines shall apply to all journalists and media organs. In case of noncompliance with these guidelines, Rwanda Media Commission may issue an enforcement notice to remedy the failure within a specific period of time.