Much as people in a democratic society like ours are free to express their views and ideas, it is imperative to note that they should do it within some limits.
They have to strive to differentiate themselves from mentally disturbed people in the way they exercise their freedoms and liberty. They have to bear in mind the societal values of their communities.
Journalism is not detached from the society it is practiced in, since it is ostensibly supposed to serve the very society interests.
In actual sense, true journalism is that which makes accurate interpretation of pertinent issues, sets the right agenda, measuring its progress pace, plus preserving and promoting the interests of a larger society as opposed to small groups and narrow interests.
To a journalist, it may mean more than this, for they practice their job within a prescribed professional and ethical code of conduct – which above all regards facts, truth, accuracy and proper context as sacred.
In the Rwandan society like in many African societies telling lies was and still ,is taboo. The price paid by habitual liars is loss of one’s integrity. People will always have a low opinion of liars, save for a few joy riders like Canadian Garry Dimock.
In journalism, peddling lies for selfish gain is a disservice to society, in that it is a serious impediment to social development.
The opinion piece I read in Umuseso titled “Impamvu 10 abantu barushaho kurambirwa ubutegetsi bwa Kagame”, Issue No.293, in my view grossly contravenes and undermines neutrality as one of the principles of journalism.
The desperately baseless assertions in the piece are typical of cadres at political party secretariats, who even at the risk of sounding naively hollow employ them to hoodwink and manipulate the people in their bid to canvass for votes.
This is partly why some people generally define politics as ‘a dirty game’.
The author also has deliberately or otherwise defied the principle of impartiality. And, at some point his tone prompts a careful reader to believe that some journalists do not draw a line between independence and opposition. The latter defies conventional wisdom.
Even in our opinions as journalists, it is obligatory that facts and common sense become the basis and that fairness defines the language and tone.
Only then shall we be perceived as credible both in the eyes of the individuals or groups we disagree with and by observers.
This will differentiate us from propagandists paid to do odd jobs such as mercenary mudslinging. We must desist from the temptation of cheaply (for 30 pence) soiling the image that ought to be our reflection as well.
Recently a one Faith Mbabazi, from our own Radio Rwanda, took her blurred view of national interests to another level. She myopically asked visiting David Cameron of UK’s Conservative Party, what the hell he was doing in Mbabazi’s poor country as floods were an issue back in his own country.
The question had been fed unto her by some accompanying Briton journalists who understood well their differences with and war against a rival political party leader.
It was an extreme case of lack of courtesy. She somehow quickly forgot (I am told after she had been promised a visa) Cameron was her kind guest.
The type who so generously could not cancel his party’s long planned Project Umubano because of abrupt excess rains in Britain.
The desire to serve the larger community as opposed to narrow interests should be the ultimate goal in communication. Much as the views of the minority are respected in a democratic society, they (minority) need to know that the majority have rights too.
The president Charles Kabonero demonizes is beloved to the majority.
Not that this fact should gag him. Not at all. But he makes blind-fool of himself when he fails to see the glowing goodness even the one-eyed proclaim.
The assertion that the president’s popularity is waning leaves a lot to be desired. First, the writer would have realized that the theme calls for empirical data to convince the readers.
When was the opinion poll conducted, and by which firm?
A serious journalist needed to have established the percentage of Rwandans who have lost confidence in the president.
Secondly, he should have specified the methodology he employed to reach the statistics, hidden or otherwise, on which his outrageous conclusions were hinged.
The research method of his choice should have at least indicated the number of respondents in each province or district and the question(s) they were responding to.
Thirdly, he would have given, as part of his findings, the reasons respondents gave for craving for a change in leadership.
Otherwise, his opinion and particularly the assertion that Rwandans need a change remains an opinion of his poor personal self.
Gone are the days when one’s own father’s beliefs were the criteria of truth. In a global village and in a fast developing world, facts appeal more to people than beliefs and prejudice. Prejudice repulses objective readers.
In his book, “Writing Opinion for Impact”, Professor Conrad C. Fink says opinion writing should be reasoned, forceful, responsible and readable.
What defeats logic is that Kabonero claims that the ‘majority’ of Rwandans are jumping off Kagame’s ship but that they do it so secretly that it enables him to keep telling the world he is popular. (…Amahirwe Kagame agifite ni uko byinshi mu bivugwa bivugirwa mu ibanga, bikamuha uburyo bwo gukomeza kwemeza isi ko imiyoborere ye ari Nta makemwa…”
Believing that the writer is in position to know what the majority of Rwandans confess secretly suggests two things.
One, that the writer possesses divine qualities of omniscience and omnipresence. That is, he is all-knowing and present everywhere at the same time respectively.
Two, that he has superior intelligence personnel and gadgetry equal or better to that of the president.
Otherwise the president would know, like Kabonero does, that he is politically very vulnerable and therefore try to do something to avert his fate.
The claim that Kagame’s leadership is built on distrust and suspicion is far-fetched.
This is what education psychologists call Projection. It means Kabonero is seeing his personal feelings, stirred in his inner self by the countless concoctions and endless fabrications he rehearses everyday, in others.
Kabonero does not trust anybody.
This explains why he is the Managing Director and Chief Editor, who negotiates adverts (thus a marketer), a reporter, the Human Resource Manager and he is nearly everything in RIMEG.
If the company owned a car, I am sure he would double as the company’s driver.
No wonder because he wants to do everything by himself and for himself, he always ‘forgets’ to pay his staff, also going for months without securing time to pay rent for office.
President Kagame trusts others and that is why Rwandans, today, own and determine their destiny by exercising the power enshrined in Article 1 of 1995 Constitution.
He trusts his people, hence the success story of decentralization that started only in 2001.
Today, power has gone to the sector level, according to records in the Ministry of Local Government, MINALOC.
To this effect, the Cabinet passed Vision 2020 Umurenge Bill due to be implemented in 2008.
Kabonero claims that jobs and other appointments are on the basis of favouritism rather than merit. Indeed, this is intended to mislead Rwandans.
If it were so, the writer’s own relatives, with this kind of anti-development criticism, would not be in those big offices.
The appointing authority would have shunned them for being related to a rabid-dog-like scribe.
He talks of finance minister James Musoni recently owning up to a lapse which led to inaccuracies in a joint government-UNDP report. Kabonero should be informed that accepting one’s mistakes is one of the qualities of a good leader.
Bill Clinton accepted his affair with Monica Lewinsky and even the strict court of public opinion pardoned him.
For his immense humility, Americans would have re-elected him for a third time, had their constitution allowed them.