Study says local media weak in citizen-centred reporting

A survey dubbed 'Media and policymaking in Rwanda' has found that only 4.2 per cent of stories published by newspapers and broadcast by radio and TV stations come from citizens.
Janvier Murenzi, a Pax Press staffer, speaks as Twizeyimana (L) as Mbungiramihigo look on during the meeting. / Michel Nkurunziza.
Janvier Murenzi, a Pax Press staffer, speaks as Twizeyimana (L) as Mbungiramihigo look on during the meeting. / Michel Nkurunziza.

A survey dubbed “Media and policymaking in Rwanda” has found that only 4.2 per cent of stories published by newspapers and broadcast by radio and TV stations come from citizens.

It shows that 71.2 per cent of all stories are sourced from government officials mainly from workshops, news conferences and official meetings.

 

The survey was commissioned by Pax Press, a local network of journalists with financial support from Norwegian People’s Aid.

 

Other stories come from different sources such as the private sector (6.6 per cent), civil society (8.5 per cent) and development partners, the survey shows.

 

The research was conducted by local firm, MGC Consult International Ltd, at the end of 2016 and it aimed at investigating the role of the media in shaping or influencing public policy in Rwanda.

The findings include the perceptions of journalists, media managers, owners, and heads of civil society organisations as well as content analysis of media outputs.

Presenting the research findings, Dr Christopher Kayumba, the lead consultant, said: “investigative stories are very few and there is no way journalists could influence policy-making if they only write hard news from officials without approaching ordinary citizens to have their voices and do more analysis and interpretation.”

There is need for investigative stories to inform policy-making, he said.

The findings revealed that 51. 1 per cent of stories are hard news while only 2.1 per cent are investigative, 2.4 per cent are interpretative; 1.5 per cent are rejoinders, 13.7 per cent are features, while 8.1 per cent are commentaries.

Kayumba said that the survey found weakness in policy reporting.

“Media do not only write to inform citizens about policy implementation but also need to report to influence new policies and this is a wakeup call for us, the practitioners, to improve,” said Albert Baudouin Twizeyimana, the national coordinator of Pax Press.

Overall, 78.8 per cent of respondents believe that government supports covering and reporting its policies, while 61.2 per cent stated that media reports are critical on policy issues some 24 per cent said media always favour government policies.

Recommendations

The study recommends that institutions charged with media capacity building should educate and sensitise journalists on the importance of purposive reporting and public policy, and encourage specialisation in specific fields.

The report also called for improved capacity in investigative and interpretive reporting, opinions and editorials so as to improve the quality of reporting, interpreting and debating policy.

It also recommended in-house training, efficient and frequent editorial meetings that generate policy-oriented story ideas, initiating stories from within media houses, as well as effective interviewing and data gathering skills to reduce reporting of only events.

Peacemaker Mbungiramihigo, the Executive Secretary of Media High Council, said the research is one of the tools that will be used in strengthening media sector in Rwanda.

MHC is charged with capacity building of the media.

“This will certainly inform our activities. It is part of education considering that the media the Fourth Estate, the sector has to do more in informing and influencing policy,” he said.

editorial@newtimes.co.rw

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