Yesterday, Rwandan journalists joined the rest of the continent to celebrate the African Day of Information.
Local journalists and friends and partners of the media met at one of the latest magnificent additions onto Rwanda’s fast-growing hotel industry, Lemigo Hotel, located in Kimihurura, Kigali.
The Rwanda Journalists Association, with support from the Ministry of Information, was determined to ensure that this day does not pass unnoticed. It’s a day when Africans reflect on the critical role of the media in national development, and devise mechanisms to help advance the media profession.
At the meeting, it became clear that, every journalist wants to be professional, fair and credible in their reporting. All participants were united in the belief that the media play a critical role in the democratization and development processes of any country. As such, there was consensus among the participants on the need for our media industry to truly serve the people, and not its owners, or anyone else.
This column has pointed out before that the African media continue to serve as conduits for Western media propaganda on Africa, by republishing and rebroadcasting the same falsehoods peddled by the latter.
That the Western media are biased against Africa is no secret. Many of them are clearly serving a cause that defeats basic principles of journalism – objectivity, accuracy and fairness. Yet, they are the same people who claim to have absolute knowledge of the profession.
Looking at the behavior of the so-called international media, one wonders whether they are subject to the same principles that guide this otherwise noble and sacrificial profession. They determine what is ‘professional’ and ‘unprofessional’ based on their interests. They are, more or less, in the same league as Reporters Without Borders, which would rather turn a blind eye to the suffering of Somalis and instead invest everything at its disposal in the demonization of Kigali.
Most Western media have continued to manipulate and rape the basic principles of journalism with impunity. They tell us that a journalist is not a judge; that he/she should simply present facts as they are, and let the readers/listeners judge. Yet, we see them calling African leaders all sorts of names, including predators, dictators, strongmen, intolerant military rulers, oppressors, etc, with such ease. They despise African people and have contempt for our culture and values.
Ironically, they will not out rightly criticize their own leaders who openly violate human rights. While in their home countries, governments are busy curtailing fundamental freedoms to the extent of banning innocent women from wearing full-face veils in public places, Muslim women in Rwanda and many non-Islamic African countries have the liberty to wear burqa anytime, anywhere. While in their countries, some communities don’t want to see a Mosque built in their vicinities, in Rwanda and, indeed, in many African countries, many Mosques and Churches are built side by side, and both worshippers are happily co-existing.
The Western media shamelessly continue to practice ‘imbedded journalism’ in countries like Afghanistan (and previously in Iraq), a deception that, for a long time, deprived the world community of the truth regarding wars in those countries.
Nonetheless, the African media should not be distracted by the unethical and unprofessional behavior of their Western colleagues. Thing is, the African media are there to serve the African people; to hold those entrusted with power, by the people, to account, and to expose those who abuse people’s trust. The African media need no lessons from the West.
They understand the difficulties the ordinary African goes through day in, day out, than any journalist in Western capitals. Reason: We have lived and been shaped by these same challenges, and understand, more than anyone else, the cost of bad polices and unaccountable leadership.
The writer is a training editor with The New Times and 1st VP of Rwanda Journalists Association