The media fraternity has urged the government to repeal some articles in various legislations that make defamation a criminal offence in order to foster the independence and freedom of media in the country.
The call was made yesterday during a meeting organized to mark the Africa Day of Information, which was organized by the Rwanda Journalists’ Association (ARJ) and the Ministry of Information.
The meeting attracted over 100 participants who included journalists, media experts and lecturers, government officials and as well members of the civil society.
In the discussions, it was noted that press freedom was necessary since the media acts as a platform for public debate and also scrutinizes public officials and policies, whereby the criminalization of defamation makes it difficult for media houses to freely play their role as watchdogs on activities of public officials.
Addressing the participants, Ignatius Kabagambe, the Director General in the Ministry of Information, commended the journalists resolutions and advised them to develop a team of to meet government officials in order to push for their demands.
“Journalists’ associations need to take practical steps aimed at making them more representative and effective tools of advocacy,” Kabagambe said.
“On the 25th of November, there will be a dialogue which will present an opportunity for media houses to present their concerns to the relevant stakeholders.”
In his presentation, Alphonse Nkusi of Rwanda Governance Advisory Council, urged media houses to operate as business entities in order to sustain and survive in the global competitive market.
“A competitive media offers attractive information which is good for development since it contributes to the aspirations of the country,” Nkusi said.
“There can not be development without democracy; democracy depends on an informed citizenry and the media acts as their source of information. People’s interests are best defended by citizens who know their values and choices through the provision of broad information”.
In the meeting, public officials were encouraged to make access to information for journalists easier noting that a draft law on access to information is currently being scrutinized by the Ministry of Justice.