Gov’t to table media bills this week

Lawmakers are, on Tuesday, scheduled to pore over four media bills, including the draft law on the media and the draft law on access to information.According to Augustin Habimana, the Director General of Communication and Outreach in the Parliament, the plenary session will also debate the bills on the functioning and organisation of the Media High Council (MHC), as well as the one concerning the Rwanda Broadcasting Agency (RBA).
Journalists during a past function at the Press House. Parliament will this week debate several media bills . The New Times /File.
Journalists during a past function at the Press House. Parliament will this week debate several media bills . The New Times /File.

Lawmakers are, on Tuesday, scheduled to pore over four media bills, including the draft law on the media and the draft law on access to information.

According to Augustin Habimana, the Director General of Communication and Outreach in the Parliament, the plenary session will also debate the bills on the functioning and organisation of the Media High Council (MHC), as well as the one concerning the Rwanda Broadcasting Agency (RBA).

The president of the Rwanda Journalists Association (ARJ), Gaspard Safari, yesterday told The New Times that the bills are part of the ongoing media reforms in the country. “I think these bills are part and parcel of the ongoing grand media reforms.”

“If the bills are enacted into laws, they are likely to herald a new era and subsequently a paradigm shift in the long-run, in the way journalism, in particular, and media, in general, will be conducted in Rwanda,” he explained.

The media bill, among other issues, highlights the issue of defamation.

The latest version defines defamation as a specific act of using words, images or pictures published that are not accurate or true with the intention of offending the honour or estimation of the person in the eyes of a reasonable man, or exposing him/her to public contempt.

The media bill’s Article 4 (regulation of print media) says print media shall largely regulate itself.

However, as noted, necessary statutory regulation shall be administered by the Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Agency (RURA).

Access to information

The bill on access to information largely aims to enable the public access information possessed by public organs, certain private bodies, public authorities and authorities of certain classes of private bodies and establishes systems and processes to promote proactive dissemination of information.

To achieve this, according to the bill, some principles shall be followed. These include promoting open government through maximum disclosure of information; facilitating the right of all persons to have access to information held by public authorities; and to require that public authorities proactively publish and disseminate information to the public in order to further the public interest generally; and to promote public participation in democratic and development processes.

The other principles include promoting greater accountability of public authorities and private bodies, and better informed discussions and the free interchange of opinions.

Meanwhile, the bill on the establishment of RBA outlines the main responsibilities as providing the public with national and international news that is impartial and accurate; providing Rwandans and foreigners with educational programmes; providing the public with recreational and entertaining programmes; contributing to the promotion of culture, among others.

RBC will replace the state-owned Rwanda Office of Information (ORINFOR) as the agency completes a longstanding plan to transform into a public broadcaster.

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