Media managers and practitioners have told Parliament that government and other stakeholders can do much more than they are doing now to support the development of the media sector, to ensure it grows at the same pace as other sectors.
The practitioners said this yesterday during a consultative meeting hosted by the Senatorial Standing committee on Political affairs and Good governance at the Parliamentary Buildings in Kimuhurura.
The meeting brought together several media managers and journalists from both public and private media houses, as well as those from media regulatory bodies, in a session that lasted for about three hours.
The objective was to engage the media sector on how far the government has come in terms of upholding and respecting Fundamental Principles referred to in article 10 and the provisions of articles 56 and 57 of the Constitution.
However, a session that was meant to guide the Senators, from the media perspective, on how best they can hold the government accountable on the application of the Fundamental Principles later changed course as practitioners begun airing out their grievances to the legislators.
Several media managers and journalists stressed that despite some commendable strides made by various sectors in the country, the media has lagged behind.
Arthur Asiimwe, the Director General of public broadcaster, Rwanda Broadcasting Agency, urged Senators to regularly engage media managers and journalists, saying that this will consequently empower local media to play its part in the country’s development.
“In some cases one would think that the media is a forgotten sector yet our role as the fourth estate is very critical in national development. Despite the media law you (parliament) passed, I have never heard of a case where the parliament called for a dialogue with the media to talk about issues we face. I urge you to help the media develop to highest possible level,” Asiimwe said.
Magnus Mazimpaka, of Taarifa, a news website, told the Senators that since 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, other sectors have recovered from negative public perception, but not the media; a fate he feels has hindered the sector’s development.
He said that factors such as the disbanding the Ministry of Information as well as the fact that Rwanda Development Board (RDB) has not listed media as one of the possible investment prospects available in the country has limited its chances to grow
Emmanuel Mugisha, the executive secretary of the Rwanda Media Commission, said that the collaboration between parliament and journalists in particular is still wanting.
He noted that access to information law has since encountered some challenges, which he feels should be rectified to facilitate journalists have access to basic information let alone exclusivity on various parliamentary proceedings.
Jean-Nepomuscene Sindikubwabo, the chairperson of the Senatorial committee, said that, “it is imperative that all public organs respect Access to Information Law and work hard to improve the status of local media for inclusive development.”
Regarding bias and stigma the media faces for its role in the Genocide, Sindikubwabo urged practitioners to continue “striving” for professionalism and work hard to redeem its reputation just as other sectors.
“Different sectors have worked hard to redeem their reputation and I feel the same can be done in the media. This is certainly the responsibility of various stakeholders.
“Media is one sector that can bring returns to investors and improve the socio-economic status of the country. This is a big debate which I feel people need to examine and perhaps RDB can take advantage of that investment gap and encourage private investors to create bigger media platforms in the country, “Sindikubwabo added.
Meanwhile, Sindikubwabo acknowledged that despite progress the country has made in the realisation of rule of law and good governance, gaps still exist in application of Fundamental Principles.
“Despite some progress made, it is still evident that people don’t understand Fundamental Principles, hence we still see cases of some people going against them or even some principles not being applied as they should be,” he said.
He urged media practitioners to partner with legislators in ensuring that Fundamental Principles are respected across the board.
Under article 10 of the Constitution, the country committed itself to six Fundamental Principles which are; fighting the genocide ideology and all its manifestations; eradication of ethnic, regional and other divisions and promotion of national unity; equitable sharing of power; building a state governed by the rule of law, a pluralistic democratic government and equality of all Rwandans and between women and men reflected by ensuring that women are granted at least 30 per cent of posts in decision-making organs.
Others are building a State committed to promoting social welfare and establishing appropriate mechanisms for ensuring social justice and the constant quest for solutions through dialogue and consensus.