Participants at the 6th annual national dialogue on media development held yesterday are optimistic that the ongoing media reforms will play a key role in addressing the challenges faced by the local media.
According to the organisers, recommendations from the one-day dialogue that brought together nearly 200 participants will help leaders and media stakeholders build a self-reliant and financially sustainable media sector.
Gonzaga Muganwa, a journalist, told The New Times that agreeing on strategies to improve media professionalism and sustainable flow of income were expected.
“Once media is profitable, you can hire the best journalists. Some media outlets are getting there but the majority haven’t,” Muganwa said.
“Issues of resources and profitability affect professionalism because if you do not have money, you cannot hire a good editor and chances of making mistakes increase. For example, the Rwanda Media Commission (RMC) now records most complaints from outlets whose structure is incomplete,” he added.
He said self censorship remains despite reforms and improvements made in the media “including the media laws in place.”
“This is something that has often been discussed. Are journalists making use of the available tools such as the access to information law? I believe we can do better to push for greater accountability,” Muganwa said.
On his part, Fred Muvunyi, chairperson of the RMC, said poverty remains a key challenge for the media.
“We have talked about this for years. This meeting should come up with practical resolutions on how media investors can benefit from the progress made by the country,” Muvunyi said.
“Other sectors such as education, and agriculture are flourishing but the media is not progressing as it should. Advertisers are not interested in working with the media,” he added.
Muvunyi, however, said the media and the investors should not just sit on the fence and assume that money will come from the government.
While opening the meeting, Francis Kaboneka, the Minister for Local Government, told participants that media self-regulation was now “pretty much functioning,” thanks to joint efforts between the government and journalists’ associations.
“I would like to assure the media fraternity of unwavering government commitment to making the Media Self-Regulatory Body stand on its own,” Kaboneka said.
The Office of the Ombudsman, the minister said, was ensuring that all public and relevant private bodies appoint information officers and that the rate of compliance was growing impressively.
Kaboneka added: “I, therefore, hope this dialogue offers us an opportunity to share and agree on further strategies to build on what has been achieved as far advancing the media sector in our country is concerned.”
The government has since 2011, embarked on comprehensive media reforms meant to create a free, independent, professional and vibrant media. Last year, four laws, including Access to Information, were enacted.
The law setting up RMC, managed by Journalists, was passed in 2013.
Alphonse Nkusi, Chairperson of the Media High Council (MHC) Board of Directors, said future dialogues will focus on local media with a possibility of learning from other countries.
In the next two years, he said, the MHC plans to conduct a thorough evaluation of the implementation of the recommendations of all the past national dialogues on media development.
The MHC has since 2009 held an annual national dialogue on media development, bringing together media experts and other stakeholders. Yesterday’s dialogue was held under the theme: “Two years after media reforms: The Impact assessment.”