Yesterday was a special day for both the Rwandan media fraternity and local soccer fans. It was a day when the Rwandan society demonstrated their recognition and appreciation of good journalism.
It was a day when journalists, local football administrators and, most importantly, football fans, participated in a series of activities, in memory of the late Shyaka Clever, the Radio 10 sports journalist, who succumbed to heart attack, in August, this year.
Many football lovers laughed their hearts out as they watched an entertaining curtain-raiser clash of unfamiliar sides, Ubwisanzure FC (a makeshift football team of journalists) and Ferwafa FC of the local football federation.
The game was full of life, passion and determination from either side; and in the end, Ferwafa proved the better side.
But the icing on cake was that mouthwatering clash between traditional nemesis, APR FC and Rayon Sports.
Finally, APR came from behind to win the encounter that was decided by spot kicks. Nonetheless, the matches were not more about show of supremacy. Both the winners and losers in both ties were evidently happily united in identifying themselves with a noble cause – honouring a man who burst into Rwanda’s media scene around 2005, and immediately became a darling to listeners for his consistent and dedicated service.
Shyaka is credited for having inspired many young men and women to join the media as sports commentators/presenters, and drew thousands to the stadia, thanks to his groundbreaking, daily, full-hour sports show.
And, when a 12-minute documentary, on the life of Shyaka, the young, innocent and clever boy, and then, Shyaka, the cheerful journalist, and loving husband and father, was screened on the scoreboard inside the Amahoro Stadium, emotions engulfed the crowd – family, journalists and sports lovers alike.
They all reflected on the loss of a hardworking journalist, friend and relative, gone too soon. In the stadium, and the mood was both depressing and uplifting - depressing because his departure left a deep vacuum that will never be filled, especially in his family, and, uplifting, because our society fondly remembers a journalist who served them faithfully. His actions put him on the right side of history in a society that bore the blunt of unprofessional journalism just sixteen years ago.
Shyaka is one of those local journalists who give us – the media practitioners – reason to be proud of this still-growing-profession, after the shame that was brought onto us by the trio of Ferdinand Nahimana, Jean Bosco Barayagwiza and Hassan Ngeze.
Shyaka was among a new generation of journalists, who are truly committed to serving their country professionally. Yesterday, many of them were beaming with hope and confidence, both on and off the pitch.
While Shyaka is no more, his deeds are immortal and will keep his memory in the public domain for many years to come. His young age (died at 32), and relatively short spell in journalism, attest to the fact that it’s never too early to make an impact in your community. It’s an indication that the current crop of journalists is, indeed, capable of turning around the negative public perception that has been associated with this profession since 1994.
The potential and the will is there, and all we need is working a little harder, and the genuine and sustained support from the rest of the society.
This week, Kigali will play host to several distinguished journalists and media owners from around the continent. They will be here to take part in a national dialogue on media development, set for Thursday and Friday. Participants will be expected to frankly discuss the serious challenges that continue to hamper the growth of a vibrant and competitive media industry in the country.
However, the organizers need to understand that we will have to build upon our existing media if we are to make significant headway. Learning from the rich experience of foreign media personalities is vital, but even more important is building upon and consolidating whatever modest progress we, ourselves, have made on the ground.
Local journalists have already demonstrated the will to move forward, as those who attended, last Thursday’s media consultative meeting (in preparation for the media dialogue) can attest.
Their concerns and proposals need not to be ignored if we are to ever get out of the recurrent challenges in our media sector.
The writer is a training editor with The New Times and 1st VP of Rwanda Journalists Association.