In a story titled “Researcher on the spot over fabricated statistics” published in The New Times yesterday, the Rwanda Correctional Services (RCS) dispelled media reports about women inmates serving sentences for abortions and infanticides because of attempting to abort. The article was published on an online portal, www.cosmopolitan.com last week under the title, “Women in Rwanda Are Being Jailed and Shamed for Having Abortions,”.
This was the second false story in a space of weeks about Rwanda. Another story published in the international media claimed that Rwanda was plucking the poor from the streets and locking them up to portray a good image of the country. Of course the stories were false and had no iota of truth, but they also point to a problem with how information departments in both public and private institutions operate.
Despite having an Access to Information law, it is still a challenge to access information – especially at short notice – from public institutions.
Although some organisations have exhibited a high level of efficiency in releasing information when approached by local media, many are still adamant when it comes to dealing with journalists.
Getting a comment from an official is usually met with endless emails and postponed appointments. Information officers are not doing enough to feed the media with information and this definitely has had consequences on telling the Rwandan story.
It’s the local media that will tell the true story of Rwanda. By not giving the local media enough attention, the concerned officials are only serving to help perpetuate flawed stories about the country.
Information officers in the various government departments need to do a lot more in keeping abreast with what happens in the local media and always be willing to share information in the shortest time possible. Why should a journalist looking for statistics fail to get such information and has to wait for days or even weeks?