Practitioners from different media houses in the country have commended the government support towards the improvement of the sector but called for a review of taxes on media materials.
The concerns were raised on Friday, during a meeting to assess the implementation of recommendations of the Rwanda Media Barometer 2013 whose findings indicated that Rwanda media sector performance was moderate with 60.7 per cent.
Hosted by Rwanda Governance Board (RGB), the meeting held in Kigali brought together journalists, media owners and different government officials.
The meeting commended the bringing of printing services closer as most printing was being done out of the country in the past.
“We used to print our newspapers from Uganda but now we have printing services in Kigali,” said Jean Gaulbert Burasa, the managing director of Rushyashya newspaper.
Mark Ramba, the managing director of Umuseke newspaper, also said the availability of a local printing press was a major relief for private newspapers.
“We know three of our colleagues whose money was stolen on their way to print from Uganda. There are many risks involved as a result of not having a local printing press,” Ramba said.
According to Gerald Mbanda, the Head of Media and Communication in RGB, the improvements made in media sector including printing services are part of the implementation of RMB 2013 recommendations.
“RMB 2013 recommended that Rwanda Printing Press Company (RPPC) should facilitate our print media by offering good services at reduced prices to avoid people from going to print in Uganda or Kenya and we are happy for the progress,” Mbanda said, adding that the printing cost in Rwanda is now less than that of other EAC member countries.
Gaspard Safari, the deputy managing director of RPPC, said that the government requires them to further slash their printing prices since their tax holiday on Value Added Tax (VAT) is soon ending and urged government to forego some taxes on media business.
“As a business, we are getting little at the moment even with the tax holiday but, our prices will go high when our VAT holiday ends. We are also paying 10 per cent on custom duty and newspapers are charged VAT on sold copies while other EAC member states exempted these taxes,” Safari said.
Safari added that RPPC is constructing a modern print house that will be completed in two years, which will provide all the printing services including magazines and national examinations that people are currently printing abroad.
Mbanda said that RGB is working with the concerned institutions to find a solution to the issue of taxes and ensure that media services remain cheaper in order to promote the sector.
Among other challenges, media practitioners decried the bureaucracy in accessing information from the sources, mainly those in government.
“We often seek information from government officials but have a problem with some of them as they tell us to send questions via emails and then wait endlessly,” said Frank Ndamage, a reporter at Imvaho Nshya newspaper.
Albert Rwego, Transparency International Rwanda’s Programme Manager, said RMB 2013 research used international indicators which involved media freedom and literacy, media plurality and diversity, media infrastructures and media as platforms for democratic discourse, among others.