THE GOVERNMENT of Rwanda, in partnership with the media fraternity, with support from development partners yesterday organized a forum on media development to enable the sharing of knowledge and experiences that in effect will continue to guide our actions towards sustainable development of the Rwandan media sector.
The 6th annual national dialogue on media development provided a platform for sharing and recommending possible solutions to current media challenges.
In shaping the development of our country, the Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy (EDPRS 2) which was adopted two years ago, promoting accountable governance is among the four pillars of the strategy.
We strongly believe that having a developed media sector is one of the means to attain accountable governance, and also a means to enhance democratic governance, economic progress and social transformation of our society.
The National dialogue on media development that we held for the sixth time comes at a time when real work has begun after finalization of rigorous but generally a successful process to reform the media sector.
Some major milestones the Government has made in the recent past aimed at accelerating media development include;
Media self-regulation is now pretty much functioning, thanks to joint efforts between government and journalists associations. I would like to assure the media fraternity of unwavering government support for as long as it will take to make the media self-regulatory body stand on its own.
Having relieved the Media High Council of the unenviable job to regulate media, its law was also amended to give the sole responsibility to develop media capacities as well as conduct related advocacy.
Government is happy with the job the institution is doing under a new mandate.
The access to information law is well under implementation. On behalf of Government, the Office of the Ombudsman has since gone ahead to ensure that all public and relevant private bodies appoint or designate information officers as soon as possible. This has been done and the rate of compliance is growing impressively.
Another important development is that the Rwanda Broadcasting Agency (RBA) is up and running. The public broadcaster is steadily taking shape, slowly but surely settling in into its new mandate in a new building. The newspapers (Imvaho Nshya and Re Leve), have been sold off to private operators; there is a new tantalizing breakfast show on TVR, “Rise and Shine”, and much more to expect.
I therefore hope that this dialogue will be the perfect opportunity to share and agree on further strategies to be undertaken as a way to build on what has been achieved thus far for sustainable advancement of the media sector in our country.
This platform also offers us the opportunity to discuss how we can work together to place the African media in a global context in terms of its objectives and deliverables.
The African media ought to tell its own story from the continent’s perspective and in a most fair manner to avoid misrepresentation by other media. We need to make a collective effort to tell our own story.
This is the job of a politician, the editor and the ordinary consumer of media products. We must plug all the gaps to leave no room for those with sinister motives who want to tell the so-called ‘Rwanda’s untold story’.
Allow me share with you some comments drawn from the remarks that His Excellency President Paul Kagame once delivered while addressing heads of media organs attending a regional summit organized by the East African Community Secretariat some time last year.
“For far too long the international media, with its own objectives and interests, has dominated the region and set the news agenda. This often means that they tell our story from their perspective at best and, at worst, distort it all together. As has become all too evident in our region, such misrepresentation derails our progress or even fuels conflict and other problems that destroy our gains. This is made worse when our own media either remain silent or relay the same stories told from a biased standpoint, becoming complicit therefore in perpetuating these views imposed from outside.”
This is an important message that should guide our deliberations and inform the realistic strategies we will adopt to push Africa’s voice on the international stage, guarding against its perpetual marginalization. That should be our ultimate goal even as we deliberate on media development strategies.
As media we need to understand the national vision if we are to play a leading role in achieving the set goals. The reforms we have undertaken, the laws we have revised, the mandates we have together changed, the investments we are attracting into the sector and the capacities we are developing must all be aimed in the direction to build Africa for Africans.
Equally important, we need to come up with recommendations that will encourage sustainable investments into the sector.
Mr Kaboneka is the Minister of Local Government and this article was extracted from a speech he gave during the 6th Annual Nation Dialogue on Media Development held yesterday.