A Paris-based media watchdog organisation going by the name Reporters Without Borders, whose French acronym is RSF, posted a report on its website that Minister of Information Louise Mushikiwabo found ridiculous.
It castigated her decision last Friday to make it clear to three rabid Rwandan journalists that they were unwelcome to an event her ministry had organised in commemoration of the World Press Freedom Day.
The trio, formerly a quartet but missing one of their ilk, defunct Umuco newsletter editor Bizumuremyi Bonaventure, who fled the country after publishing defamatory stories against the President, are Charles Kabonero of Umuseso, a bi-monthly, Jean-Gualbert Burasa of Rushyashya and John Bosco Gasasira of Umuvugizi. The latter two are registered as weeklies but severely suffer from publishing inconsistently.
Since the turn of the year, none of the three has come out more than twice. You cannot call them anything, not even monthlies, and not bi-monthlies of course because they would easily be confused for being published twice a month. But when they do come out, all the bar talk, street rumours, conspiracy theories, unsubstantiated allegations, outrageous accusations and sweeping statements of various kinds, against victims of their vendetta campaign, will be in there.
The above facts are devoid of any news element in them since they are age old. News is that in Minister Mushikiwabo, these journalists who for long have been a disgrace to the image of print journalism in this country now have more than their match.
And she is taking them on along with their godfathers RSF, exposing the insensitivity and naivety, if not malignant, which largely defines the so-called watchdog. It has been argued lately in various fora that the minister’s bold action will end up causing more harm than good.
Our case is that nothing can be worse than the harm Umuseso, Umuco, Rushyashya and Umuvugizi have caused to this country by misinforming its citizens and their foreign friends. You can imagine the numerous decisions ignorantly made by foreigners against investing in Rwanda as a result of misinformation, or the social disharmony effect on our fragile national reconciliatory efforts.
We ask the simple question: what do these ‘newspapers’ symbolise? Is it news in the sense we all know it to be, or investigative journalism, or informed and informative op-ed, or deep analytical views, or researched feature stories, or entertainment, or what?
If we faced it squarely here and asked what the reading public would miss if the remaining 2Us and R were to go the Umuco way, what answer would we get?