KIGALI - The Deputy Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, Mmasekgoa Masire-Mwamba, has said that the media should provide a realm for debate and a lubricant to the effective functioning of the democratic process.
Mwamba made the remarks while addressing the Commonwealth Forum on Media and Economic Development that started in Kigali yesterday.
She noted that media should present itself as the voice of the people, accommodating all views and ensuring that more dominant voices in the systems do not stifle the less vocal.
“Recent research has demonstrated that mass media influences economic, political and social outcomes. It has also linked high levels of media freedom and independence to strong democratic systems and faster economic development,” Mwamba said.
She noted that it was imperative for countries to treat information as a public good, to which all citizens have indelible rights.
“Openness and transparence offer benefits to African countries. They offer our people an opportunity to scrutinize government policies and processes without fear of reprisal,” Mwamba said.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Louise Mushikiwabo, took note of Rwanda’s achievements in developing its media sector for the last 17 years.
She said that media development objectives are anchored in the constitution and reflected in national development strategies, which signals the government’s commitment to establish an independent and professional media sector.
“Laws to liberalize the media and ensure access to information were enacted. The Media Law is in its final stages before enactment while the School of Journalism and Great Lakes Media Centre contribute valuably to building the capacity of our practitioners,” Mushikiwabo said.
She also reiterated Rwanda’s openness to discuss media issues, providing and encouraging platforms for debates.
Mushikiwabo demonstrated Rwanda’s strong political will to provide free but responsible media and political and economic space as well as openness to constructive criticism.
The caretaker Minister for Information, Protais Musoni, said that the media in Rwanda is trying to professionalize to keep pace with social, economic and political developments in the country, and that the government recognizes its centrality in this process.
One of the experts attending the meeting, Charles Okigbo, observed that there is no African style of communication for development, and called for an Africa-centred interpretation of communication for development.
“In an increasingly globalizing world, we tend to copy more than we should. The answer to this problem is adaptation not wholesome adoption,” said Okigbo who is a lecturer at North Dakota State University.
He added that communication for development should be about doing adaptive work and engaging in adaptive leadership.
The four-day forum will serve as a platform for stakeholders and key players from the Commonwealth countries’ communication industry to discuss strategies, showcase achievements and debate ideas while sharing expert knowledge and solutions - all of which aimed at accelerating the role of media in development.