Worldwide the media is a major player as far as far as engineering the social conscience of the public and helping set the agenda is concerned. Rwanda is better placed to understand the true reach of the media and its nefarious effects if it is misused: It can wipe out a whole generation.
Many societies have been conditioned to believe anything they read, listen to or watch on television. The media is supposed to be the ears and eyes of the public. Because of its privileged role in society, it sets the agenda and people believe in what it sets.
However, if this privilege is misused journalism standards are ignored- the most important principles of “seek the truth and report it” ceases to matter and consequently the media becomes a liability to society and development.
Rwanda has been on the receiving end of irresponsible media; not just from the pre-genocide period when politicians used it as a tinderbox that cost the lives of over a million people, but the post-genocide period has also not been so kind.
This period has been marked by an international media onslaught that seems to have its own agenda, and whatever it may be, it is not in Rwanda’s interests. This has been compounded by international agencies that leak unfounded reports to the international media for selfish reasons.
If a reputable media house, or one that is expected to adhere to integrity principles, fabricates stories that can adversely affect the lives of millions, does it mean credibility of the media is breathing its last breath?
If the “Fourth Estate”– especially influential international media houses – are following in the footsteps of the infamous Radio Télévision Libre des Mille Collines (RT LM) and its sister, Kangura, then who is safe?
The media can independently play it’s crucial role but it can be achieved through principles of fairness, balance and accuracy.