KIGALI - Members of the press on Wednesday met in Kigali to discuss possible amendments to the Media Bill before it is signed by the President and subsequently published in the National Gazette.
The consultative meeting between media practitioners was convened in a bid to come up with recommendations to be put into consideration before the Bill becomes an effective law governing media in the country.
The most pressing issues raised included the clause that sets minimum qualifications for being accepted as a journalist, the revision of a number of definitions that were found ‘confusing,’ the right to access to information as well as the decriminalisation of libel and defamation.
On qualifications, journalists suggested that on top of having a degree in journalism or a degree in other field plus journalism training, the law should also allow those who have A’ level certificate with solid experience in media sector.
It was also suggested that the period of three years phasing out could be increased to five years, to allow more graduates from the Great Lakes Media Centre (GLMC) that trains practicing journalists since 2008.
The Director of GLMC, Jean Bosco Rushingabigwi, told journalists that the training is important for reporters, and insisted on the programmes they follow during the training.
“What is important is the quality, the content of what they get during the training,” he said.
Other proposed amendments highlighted the replacement of some confusing terms, in a move to have everything made clear in the law.
Journalists also advocated for a removal of some restrictions that, according to them, aim at limiting investigative journalism, hence being a threat to the right to access to information.
Members of the press however welcomed the fact that the registered capital to start a media industry has been removed from the law, and recommended that specific amount of money to start a media industry should be discussed between the Information Ministry, the Media High Council and media practitioners.
The meeting that was chaired by the President of Rwanda Journalists Association, Gaspard Safari, explored all the articles included in the Media Bill that has already received green light from both chambers of parliament.
But controversies arose following the allegations by journalists that their views were not included in the project, and the parliament had to sit on it for the second time.
Recently the President asked for more discussions on the law before he could sign it, and last week the Information Minister held the first consultative meeting with media practitioners, where she mentioned that discussions on the law will continue until a common stand is reached.