KIGALI - Today marks the last day of operations at the Ministry of Information after the cabinet’s decision to phase it out by the end of June and transfer its duties and responsibilities to other government institutions.
In an interview with The New Times, the Director of Cabinet Affairs in the Prime Minister’s Office, Eugene Barikana, said that it was resolved in the last cabinet reshuffle that the ministry dissolves and instead set up the Office of Government Spokesperson to deal with all media communications.
Barikana said that the Ministry of Labour and Public Service (MIFOTRA) issued termination letters to the staff of the ministry, ending their employment by the end of June.
“There is nothing special apart from a new office of the Government Spokesperson which will handle media communications on behalf of government and another department in the Prime Minister’s Office also charged with media communication,” Barikana said.
“Policy issues will be handled by the Ministry in the Office of the President in charge of ICT, while other responsibilities will be transferred to the Media High Council,” he added.
In an interview, the Director General of MINIFOR Ignatius Kabagambe confirmed the development, saying that necessary handover procedures will take place today.
“As you are aware, the Office of Government Spokesperson that will soon be in place shall assume some of the ministry's functions, precisely Government Communication and national image enhancement,” Kabagambe said.
“The other functions that include media policy for sector development, regulation, investments and press freedoms and liberties will also soon be re-allocated to a relevant ministry”.
Meanwhile, he noted that some of the current staff members are likely to end up in either the Office of Government Spokesperson or in ministries and government institutions that will take up media affairs.
“In case there are any who may not find themselves in either of the two, normal public service procedures shall be followed,” Kabagambe said
Among these, the former employees of the ministry will be entitled to employment termination benefits, including six months’ pay.
“The staff are cool about the reforms, well appreciating the reason behind them. They are also confident their experience in a field as highly marketable as communication, should land them job opportunities elsewhere sooner than later,” Kabagambe noted.
Also to be set up is a Government Media Centre which will coordinate all media communications between the government and private or public media.
The move to phase out the ministry is part of the government plans to move towards media self-regulation approved by the cabinet in March.
Among other major reforms is the transformation of ORINFOR from a state broadcasting agency to a public one, becoming Rwanda Broadcasting Agency (RBA) as well as the amended media law.
Also in the pipeline is the Access to Information Law which will allow the media the right to information and at the same time punish public officials who withhold information.