Wikileaks portrays the leak in our media

Next time you are invited either at the nearest coffee shop or any US diplomat's residence or the embassy itself for a meeting, make sure what you say is something you are ready to defend in public. With Wikileaks, at-least the first lesson we learn is that what we might say in the cover of the night will unfold in broad daylight and haunt us.
Arthur Asiimwe
Arthur Asiimwe

Next time you are invited either at the nearest coffee shop or any US diplomat's residence or the embassy itself for a meeting, make sure what you say is something you are ready to defend in public.

With Wikileaks, at-least the first lesson we learn is that what we might say in the cover of the night will unfold in broad daylight and haunt us.

Ever since Julian Asange began unleashing US diplomatic cables, we have been treated to damning revelations, some involving clear cases of back stubbing while others are likely to bring a bitter taste in foreign policies of some countries.

In the region, the revelations are bringing out stinking revelations with interesting tales of political machinations and sour-graping where, like school children, senior government officials parade in US embassy corridors to taint or undermine the image of their bosses or colleagues.

In our region, the only US embassy that might not be having sleepless nights over these spills is that of Kigali. Not because there's no fair share of outrageous revelations in the confidential cables but rather because our media has either ignored the storyline or is yet to pick it.

Overall, though the cable leaks on Rwanda give you a clear picture of the US’ interests in this region, it also shows you that Kigali might be a boring station for some of these diplomats. With no political bickering or senior politicians running through their embassy barricades with hot gossip, the embassy here is left with a small menu from which to base their reporting.

That said, one of the fascinating findings in the leaked cables, is the repeated analyses on Rwanda’s media terrain.  Though in some incidents the cables provide a mixed narrative on the media situation, overall, these leaked dispatches provide a candid and fair description of this sector.

In fact, in my humble view, they qualify to be the most objective reports done on Rwanda's media by any foreign element.

For example, in one of dispatches, a former US ambassador in Kigali describes Rwanda's struggling independent media as grossly irresponsible and often reporting stories with least adherence to ethical standards.

“The greatest obstacle to the development of Rwanda’s independent media probably no longer government harassment but financial weakness, poverty, illiteracy and a lack of reading culture that severely limit the readership and profitability of Rwandan newspapers."

In another paragraph, the cable adds, "Stories are often poorly sourced and based on rumour and innuendo. Many practicing journalists enter the field in their late teens or early twenties with no more than secondary school education."

"Internal divisions and weak management skills also have prevented Rwanda's independent journalists from advocating effectively for their interests."

Commenting on the endless jabbing from media watchdogs like Reporters without Boarders and Freedom House, one of the cables describes their accusations as “often simplistic and tends to ignore both the complexities of the individual cases and contesting versions of events.”

It thus recommends that, “While the word of the GOR in these cases should not be taken at face value, nor should human rights groups automatically assume that individuals claiming harassment are presenting an accurate version of events.”

In another cable release, where my name appears, apparently being accused by John Bosco Gasasira (editor of the defunct Umuvugizi newspaper) of leading attacks on independent media during a private meeting with the President, you are treated to the nature of broad-day lies that some of these guys shamelessly fed diplomats.   

It says President Kagame offered a resumption of government advertising for publications willing to support his administration to which Gasasira (during the meeting) allegedly stood up on behalf of his cohorts and openly told the President that they would not change their editorial line. 

If it wasn’t a case of a drowning man willing to clutch to a straw, then surely this old friend of mine would easily scoop an Oscar award for being an aspiring journalist with the least shame of being economical with the truth.

But more saddening is the feeling of despise and little value with which these diplomats attached to some of the chaps that frequented their corridors with all sorts of accusations.

For example, after the Gasasira’s meeting in which he made his outrageous allegations, they describe him and his colleagues as a group of “ill educated and inexperienced” reporters who are often “purveyors of poorly sourced stories grounded in little beyond their imagination.”  Poor soul!

In reading the cables I only wished for one thing. That the media watchdogs can take time to digest these dispatches and make a comparison with their own reports.

Hopefully, that way, they will clearly see the difference in reporting facts from the ground as opposed to unfounded rumors reaching the streets of Paris.

On twitter @aasiimwe
akaeus@yahoo.com

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