Although Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority (RURA) is poised to inherit media regulatory responsibilities that are hitherto under the docket of the Media High Council (MHC), the government says the move does not contradict its earlier decision to relinquish regulatory duties to media practitioners.
With the MHC set to concentrate on media development and advocacy in line with a March 30, 2011 Cabinet resolution, the decision to transfer statutory media regulatory powers to RURA had raised some concerns on whether that would not inhibit the process of self-regulation.
But in an interview with The New Times, yesterday, the Minister of Cabinet Affairs and former caretaker of the Information portfolio, Protais Musoni, said that RURA’s involvement with media regulatory issues does not affect the government commitment to a self-regulatory mechanism.
He said RURA will particularly handle matters that cannot be conducted by the proposed self-regulation body.
“There are certain matters that cannot be given to the self-regulatory body, for example; frequencies, competition, fairness in terms of covering political parties, and so on,” he said.
Asked whether RURA needed to regulate print media as well, the minister said: “You can see nowadays that there is convergence between print and the internet. So, there are certain issues which need to be regulated by a governmental body”.
He added that the media and ICT were now intertwined, adding that statutory regulation cannot be entirely taken out of the picture.
Musoni said that RURA will enter into a Memorandum of Understanding with the self-regulatory body, detailing what exactly needs to be done and by who.
The president of the Rwanda Editors’ Forum (REFO), Bosco Rushingabigwi, agrees. “Nowhere will you find the government completely out of regulation.
But for the print media, so far, it will be self-regulated. That is why we are in the process of setting up a self regulatory body, which will basically deal with print. Self regulation actually deals more with ethics,” he added.
“At the end of the day, anyway, it will be difficult for anybody to follow up and monitor all online publications. Even technically, it becomes difficult. And I think that we are in a learning process. We are trying to see practices elsewhere, and how we can easily adapt”.
Rushingabigwi, who also chairs the committee set up to formulate ways of how self-regulation will be conducted, however expressed concern over RURA’s readiness to take on the regulation role.
“Regulation means you need monitoring, you need analysis of the content, and that kind of stuff. They need to recruit staff, put in place equipment.”
He revealed that the media self-regulatory body would be operational by that by March.Follow https://twitter.com/KarhangaJames