What RSF will never say about Rwanda’s media

ON Thursday, July 22, I woke up to news that Reporters Without Borders, or RSF, a Paris-based organisation, had called on Rwanda’s development partners to withdraw their financial support, particularly for the upcoming presidential elections.

ON Thursday, July 22, I woke up to news that Reporters Without Borders, or RSF, a Paris-based organisation, had called on Rwanda’s development partners to withdraw their financial support, particularly for the upcoming presidential elections.

Of course RSF is as ignorant on the proportion of donor contribution towards the August 9 election budget, as it always is or pretends to be on Rwandan media, which it claims to speak for.

For their information, our development partners contributed a paltry 17 percent of the total election budget, and have all honoured their pledges.

That the call came from none other than RSF is no surprise. Thanks to RSF’s relentless smear campaign, some in the international community may have now started to sense a deliberate intention, on the part of RSF, to discredit Rwanda.

Of course, the reason for their latest appeal is the recent murder, in Kigali, of the suspended Umuvugizi newspaper journalist, Jean Leonard Rugambage, and the arrest of Agnes Nkusi Uwimana, an editor of a local newspaper.

RSF will never state that Rugambage’s suspected killers were immediately arrested and that one of them pleaded guilty, attributing his actions to Rugambage’s alleged involvement in the killing of a close relative of his co-accused during the 1994 Genocide.

No, they will not say the killing was an act of revenge, but rather government sponsored. RSF will not value the arrests and the ongoing hearing; they will not believe the guilty plea of the principal suspect himself.

They rather keep reproducing the same claims by Jean Bosco Gasasira, the self-exiled chief editor of Umuvugizi, who will always say the Government is behind the murder of our comrade. But Gasasira himself will be uncomfortable to admit that a person who assaulted him a few years back was sentenced to life in prison.

No, justice is not what they are interested in, and that’s why they will never recognize that the Rwandan media fraternity publically condemned the murder and demanded that culprits meet the full force of the law.

What we’re seeing is the unfortunate attempt by RSF and the likes of Gasasira to take advantage of the unfortunate cold-blood murder of one of our own, to advance their selfish and politically motivated agenda.

As a media practitioner, I am impressed by the efforts of law enforcement organs that resulted in the apprehension of the suspects. Of course, I am not shocked that RSF have shamelessly pounced to exploit Rugambage’s murder.

Few people perhaps would have imagined that RSF was going to stoop this low – propagating cheap, insensitive, and venomous lies. No, they will not even respect the family of our fallen colleague and will not let his spirit be. Talk of barefaced opportunists.

On the arrest of Uwimana, RSF deliberately avoids details about her arrest, and simply dismisses it as an act of state crackdown on journalists. Today, Rwanda stands accused of arresting individuals, not on grounds of the charges, but for holding them accountable for crimes they commit.

To them, Rwanda should never arrest anyone, particularly a journalist, no matter what crime they commit. RSF also knows that some of these journalists are actually not doing journalistic work – that’s why they sometimes refer to them as ‘opposition journalists’.

If anything, RSF has only helped stifle the growth of professional journalism in Rwanda, by encouraging this so-called ‘opposition journalism’. Even then, opposition is not borderless, it follows established rules.

RSF will never mention the fact that Uwimana was previously convicted of sowing ethnic divisions and denying genocide, and that she was allowed to resume her publication after serving time.

This ‘watchdog’ will not mention that Uwimana has herself acknowledged that her articles were provocative and contained gross professional errors. They will never say she had promised in writing, to the Media High Council (MHC) never to repeat the same criminal acts.

RSF are aware of the several warnings and summonses the Umurabyo editor received from the MHC, to no avail. Shortly before her arrest, she ignored one of the summonses. She also refused to publish corrections as she had agreed, and is required by the law. To RSF, all these facts do not count.

RSF finds no problem for with a Rwandan (not European, not American) newspaper calling on the citizens and the army to use violent means to oust an elected government.

To them, the journalism that’s appropriate for Rwandans is one where practitioners freely impose the Nazi Swastika symbol onto the President’s head in the pictures that they print in their publications.

For them, journalists have all the freedom to compare President Kagame to Adolf Hitler, as many have already done here. To RSF, westerners may have all the rights to protest against public comparisons between their leaders and Hitler as was recently the case with a billboard in Iowa, US, that simultaneously carried photos of President Obama and Hitler. Rwandans do not. To RSF, the media in Rwanda is free to call anyone anything.

In trying to blackmail western governments to withdraw their support for Rwandan, RSF forgets one thing: that no form of threat, no amount of pressure will ever make Rwandans tread the same path that led us to the darkest chapter of our turbulent history – the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. Period!


The author is the Associate Training Editor of The New Times

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