KIGALI - The Rwanda Journalist Association (ARJ) was last week accepted into the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ). This was revealed Wednesday by the president of the association, Gaspard Safari.
“We [ARJ] have just been taken on board by the executive board of IFJ. Their just concluded meeting in Brussels accepted our application to join,” he said.
Safari added that belonging to the East African Journalist Association (EAJA), was also a factor contributing to joining the world media watch-dog.
Rwanda’s inclusion in the EA Community enabled ARJ to automatically belong to the regional association and eased ARJ’s way into the IFJ.
He pointed out the main criteria that should be fulfilled for an association to be affiliated to the IFJ.
“How you uphold the principle of press freedom as an association within your respective country is one factor,” he said.
Conforming to internal democratic principles and how often elections are held, or how one is put in office are also taken into account.
“How you advocate for the welfare and wellbeing of members is also important,” Safari continued.
Safari, however, disclosed that ARJ didn’t fare very well in the third criteria and thus it has only been taken on as an associate member pending its full accreditation. ARJ must first be a union of journalists.
“We will be full members after fulfilling one remaining condition,” he said. “We have to shift from being an association of journalists to becoming a union of journalists.”
He explained that it was then that they would have powers to influence issues such as journalists’ well-being.
“It is then that we can for example come to The New Times and inquire about workers’ welfare.”
The IFJ, through the regional grouping, EAJA, will conduct training workshops on how unions function in a bid to help ARJ improve.
“We have to move very fast in order not to violate the IFJ constitution,” Safari said.
Affiliation to the IFJ has important implications. “When you don’t belong to these organisations, you don’t have a say, you don’t get the opportunity to tell the true story about your country,” Safari underscored.
“Facts about the country are not put out as sometimes people write hearsay.”
ARJ’s membership in IFJ will impact positively in terms of the perception of Rwanda by the outside world.
“It is not only useful to us as individual members, but it will also be useful to the country when the right story is told.”