A French international organization Reporters Without Borders (RSF) will stop at nothing in pursuit of its anti-Rwanda agenda, even if it means publicly sacrificing its proclaimed mission. This NGO is so obsessed with twisting facts about Rwanda and they will next time place Rwanda at the very bottom in their so called press freedom index.
When they placed Rwanda ahead of only Eretria and Sudan in Africa and ranked the country among the last ten most dangerous countries for journalists (at 169 out of 178 countries) worldwide, I was not moved an inch.
Almost all of the RSF’s previous annual freedom index reports placed Rwanda among countries that are known for endless killings, torture and secret detention of journalists, and from the look of things, their ninth report was not about to be any better. In fact, those behind the Paris-based organization will not relent until they see Rwanda at the very bottom, replacing Eretria.
However, I have been encouraged by how our colleagues in the media fraternity in other African countries have reacted angrily to RSF’s latest rankings. Somali journalists have themselves come out to denounce the rankings and to question the audacity of ranking their own country better than Rwanda. In a correspondence to the Head of Africa Division at the RSF headquarters, Ambrose Pierre, the General Secretary of the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ), Omar Faruk Osman, raises fundamental questions that only RSF can probably find answers for.
Osman, also the President of the Federation of African Journalists (FAJ), said: “I feel that this is extremely and exceedingly inaccurate given that Somalia alone (during the period considered by the report) recorded 12 killings of journalists from September 2009 to September 2010. Also, Somalia had 5 cases of forceful take-over of radio stations by militant groups.
“Again, during the same period, the militants issued dictatorial edicts to be followed by the radio stations in the Al-Shabaab controlled areas. In this regard, I don’t see any other country, apart from Eritrea, which can measure up to the level of media freedom violations in Somalia,” he wrote.
Compare those figures to Rwanda’s situation. In Rwanda, it’s true a journalist was shot dead this year.
But it was the first case of a journalist to have been killed in Rwanda in the past 16 years. I am not attempting to lessen the magnitude of the death of comrade Leonard Rugambage; it was of course a tragic and barbaric act, which we, the local media fraternity, have condemned and asked the authorities to bring his assailants to book. Luckily, two men were arrested in connection with the murder and one has since pleaded guilty, attributing his heinous act to a genocide related case. Compare that to the 12 journalists who were killed in Somalia in just one year!
It is also true that two local tabloids, Umuseso and Umuvugizi, were suspended by the Media High Council, for continuously publishing dangerous content, in contravention of the law governing the media. The suspension has since ended and the two newspapers are free to resume publication. There are 33 newspapers and 23 radio stations operating in the country. The law is not discriminatory; it is applied to all and sundry, including Umuseso and Umuvugizi.
Presently, one Rwandan journalist is in jail in connection with breaching the media law. While I do not wish to have a journalist behind bars, I refuse to accept that media practitioners should be above the law. Journalists are key to the advancement of integrity and accountability in society and they, themselves, should lead by example.
Stephen Ouma, the General Secretary of the Uganda Journalists Union, accused RSF of ‘condoning violation of press freedom in Eastern Africa’ by creating false impressions on countries about media freedom in the region.
“..I’m inclined to conclude that you had other intentions or rather your report seem to have been politically- driven...For instance how can Rwanda, which has lost one journalist this year be rated higher than Uganda that has lost three journalists in two months (two journalists in one month, September alone),” Ouma wrote in an email to the Reporters Without Borders Africa Desk head. “How can you rate Somalia peaceful compared to Rwanda and Sudan. How shall we manage to “fight’ for press freedom in our region when RSF is promoting murderous regimes?.”
Like Ouma and Omar, I find Reporters Without Borders’ agenda a major threat to the efforts of the well intentioned rights activists, whose efforts on Somalia should not be overshadowed by the former’s schemes.
The writer is a training editor with The New Times and 1st VP of Rwanda Journalists Association (ARJ).