MUSANZE - Rwandan journalists called on all stakeholders to fast-track a wide-range of proposed media reforms.
The request was put forward during the celebration of the World Press Freedom Day, held in Musanze District, Northern Province.
Some of the reforms include instituting access to information legislation, amendment of the media law and making the media self-regulatory.
Media practitioners and experts praised the recent decision by the government to entrust media regulating responsibility to an independent body of media professionals, a role that has, since 2002, been in the hands of the Media High Council.
Kim Kizito, a news anchor on Radio 10, observed that despite some loopholes in legal instruments that support the media, there is lack of awareness among some journalists.
“Some journalists end up in trouble just because they are ignorant of the law; however, there are also law enforcers who equally don’t know the rights of journalists,” said Kizito.
The caretaker Minister of Information, Protais Musoni said that quite a big number of journalists do not enlighten themselves about those laws.
“Even when something wrong happens, they don’t sit back and plan on how best to deal with the issue. However, since I started engaging with the media in 2000, there has been a lot of improvement in journalists’ performance,” the Minister said.
“There has been improvement in regulation and the recent plan of handing the regulation duties to journalists is high-end. We will be way ahead of most countries in the world.”
According to the Rector of Ruhengeri Institute of Higher Education (INES) Dr. Deogratias Niyibizi, the media in Rwanda is supposed to be free and this is up to the journalist to exploit their freedom.
“The journalists have to free themselves so that they can become free,” Niyibizi, also a media expert said.
During the ceremony, most debates rotated around the media becoming self-regulating and according to Bosco Rushingabigwi, a journalism lecturer, the move should be pushed by reporters themselves, and not the government.
Rushingabigwi, who heads a seven-member taskforce elected by journalists to lay the ground for a self-regulatory body, briefed the gathering on the team’s progress, and appealed to journalists to take part in the ongoing debate.
Minister Musoni informed participants that six media draft laws and policies were now at advanced stages of discussion and would soon be presented to Cabinet for approval.
He reiterated government’s commitment to surrendering media regulation to the industry, but urged practitioners to take full ownership of the transition process.
“Government is committed to strengthen a self-regulated, responsible and independent media,” Musoni said.
Another journalism lecturer, Dr. Christopher Kayumba, proposed a structure through which media outlets would best regulate themselves, and appealed for solidarity among practitioners.
Participants also took note of the increased respect of media freedom, but condemned some public officials whose actions amount to a violation of such rights.
Journalists also called for decriminalisation of defamation, an issue that remains under debate in parliament.