On the 3rd of May of every year, the word celebrates the Press Freedom Day. The global theme of the World Press Freedom Day in 2014 is “Media Freedom for a Better Future: Shaping the post-2015 Development Agenda.” To make the theme relevant in the context of Rwanda, the theme has been customized as “Free and professional Media, a Driver for Good Governance and Development.”
In Rwanda, this day comes against a backdrop of an evolving media environment with the sector having undergone far-reaching reforms. The reforms include the revision of the media legal frameworks including the promulgation of the Access to information Law (2013), the establishment, within the media law, of a Media Self-regulation Mechanism, as well as transformation of the national broadcaster from state to public. One of the existing media institutions, the Media High Council, has also been given a comprehensive mandate on media capacity development.
The One UN in Rwanda, through the UNDP has been closely involved in supporting the media reforms process. This has been through a number of programmes over the last five years, such as the Inclusive Participation in Governance and currently, the Deepening Democracy and Accountable Governance programme- a five year partnership between the One UN and the Government of Rwanda- that covers areas such as evidence-based governance, enhancing the oversight role of parliament, improving the capacity of the National Electoral Commission as well as media reforms and development.
Why does the UN support Media Reforms?
One may ask why the UN is interested in media reforms. The UN supports media reforms as part of building capacity to further democratic governance in the context of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Article 19 says that “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers”. This combined with the right to take part in the government of his/her country, directly or through freely chosen representatives forms the basis of the authority United Nations RWANDA of government. The latter is expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be conducted by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.
The One UN Rwanda Resident Coordinator, Mr. Lamin M. Manneh emphasizes that “the UN globally and indeed in Rwanda supports media reforms because we believe that free, pluralistic and independent media, are crucial for a holistic development agenda involving citizens in the processes of democratic, accountable governance and sustainable development.”
The One UN in Rwanda therefore, has and continues to support the Government and other stakeholders in the media within the framework of a joint programme of the Government of Rwanda and the One UN on Deepening Democracy and Accountable Governance (DDAG).