Open letter to Rwandan journalists

My biggest 'beef' with our media people is their propensity to ape their Western counterparts instead of developing their own brand of home-grown mindsets that generate the kind of information, knowledge and analysis that best serve the needs of our society and specific circumstances.
Journalists cover a past gorilla naming ceremony (Kwita Izina) in Kinigi, Musanze District. / File
Journalists cover a past gorilla naming ceremony (Kwita Izina) in Kinigi, Musanze District. / File

Editor,

RE: “Journalists, experts on why media growth in Rwanda is slow” (The New Times, November 8).

My biggest ‘beef’ with our media people is their propensity to ape their Western counterparts instead of developing their own brand of home-grown mindsets that generate the kind of information, knowledge and analysis that best serve the needs of our society and specific circumstances.

In many cases, the approach, practices and the mindsets that inform our journalists are serious turn-offs for those of us who have already tuned out Western media. Why would we want to give any attention to – and pay for the ‘privilege’ – what, in the final analysis, we see as nothing more than pale facsimiles of the kind of media that has already turned us off?

If I wanted to read or expose myself to the kind of rubbish that so many so-called journalists throw at Rwanda, for instance, I would rather read the New York Times, Washington Post, go to the BBC, RFI, AFP, VOA, rather than their local imitators.

If you want our custom, be different; don’t ape Westerners and their assumptions, biases and analytical frameworks. Otherwise you will continue to be treated with disdain by your potential readership, listeners and audiences, no matter the number of awards you grant yourselves.

In other words, you are not developing at all, unlike other sectors in the country, because your sector has failed to contribute as much as other sectors to our country’s rebirth and ongoing development.

Instead of begging for public support – on what basis, I wonder – change your attitudes. Don’t look at Rwandan topics from a Western perspective, but as knowledgeable Rwandans channeling the concerns, frustrations, constraints, issues, needs, hopes, aspirations, achievements, joy, etc., that are of interest to Rwandans and that help to build and reinforce our society.

Stop writing or programming as if your intended readership or audiences are your counterparts in the West (unless your abiding need is for them to validate you as one of their own—which will never happen) or for the handful of people like you.

To conclude, contrary to journalistic conceit, media is a desirable service but far from an essential one in the mold of healthcare, power, water, security, justice, education, etc. There is no compelling reason for public resources to be directed towards private media, unless it is for services the public requires.

Local journalists cannot have it both ways: clamouring for government to support them and to keep out of their business at the same time. Sorry guys, we cannot accept that you have your cake while eating our collective one.

Mwene Kalinda