President Paul Kagame has assented to the Media Law after years of deliberations and consultations within Parliament and media fraternity.
The new law, signed this month, is already in application and has been published in the National Gazette, according to Rwanda Governance Board.
The other two laws that have been promulgated are; Access to Information Law and the one revising the responsibilities, functioning and organisation of the Media High Council (MHC).
One major change is the introduction of media self regulation. The print media shall self regulate entirely, while the broadcast media will partially self regulate.
“This means that MHC is virtually out of media regulation. Media self regulation will have to start immediately, practitioners need to start regulating themselves.
“Yet they have no structures such as the council to start receiving any complaints from the public that have otherwise been going to the MHC,” said Ignatius Kabagambe, the Media Development Project Coordinator at Rwanda Governance Board.
Under the new media law, electronic and internet media will be regulated by Rwanda Utility and Regulatory Agency. Previously, all media was regulated by Media High Council, a government organ.
As a result several media associations are expected to meet today morning to set up a self regulatory body.
The access to information law is new in the history of media in Rwanda.
The law came into force following the 6th Leadership Retreat held in Rubavu in 2009 after realising that there were some public officials who were reluctant to release public information.
However, this law will not only serve journalists, but also any citizen wishing to know any information from public institutions and certain private bodies that carryout any business in relation with general interest, or with rights and freedom of people.
The law requires all public and concerned private institutions to appoint officers in charge of information. This means that in their absence, the institution will be obliged to nominate any other one to replace them. But the Media High Council (MHC) is not out of business completely, according to Kabagambe. It will retain the mandate of capacity building in the media sector.
The implication of the changes, according to Kabagambe, are that media practitioners are expected to act more responsibly in the absence of an agent of the state watching over their shoulders to reprimand them over professional offences.
“It is anticipated that MHC will be more effective delivering on their consolidated mandate to spearhead capacity development in the media sector, now that their efforts will no longer be scattered,” he added.
“Reporters are going to have a field day, getting what they want from their sources in record quick time, and getting it in full.
In the end everybody becomes a winner - journalists get information which they trade in, citizens get news in time to help them make informed decisions in their daily lives, and officials receive credit for being accountable to the people they work for. That is called enhancing accountable governance with the help of media,” Kabagambe said.