KIGALI - Despite having passed the Media bill close to a month ago, parliament has made an unexpected move in requesting for the recent recommendations made by media practitioners on the controversial legislation.
According to Parliamentary Director of Communication, Augustin Habimana, the MPs requested the recommendations “to acquaint themselves with the concerns of the practitioners.”
He said that part of the reasons the parliamentarians wanted to look at the recommendations bound in a seven-page document was to digest the concerns just in case the President Paul Kagame brings back the law for changes.
The latest development unfolds following recent pressure by scribes disagreeing with the bill on some articles in different tense debates following the adoption of the bill by parliament.
“Making amendments to a bill passed by parliament is admissible by law because it has not been signed by the President into law so it is still an ongoing process,” said Madelaine Nirere, the Legal Advisor to the Senate.
She was however quick to add that Parliament has not ‘officially’ written to the Rwanda Journalists Association (ARJ) seeking the recommendations. Some of the contentious issues in the 99-article bill include the required academic qualifications for media practitioners.
The bill stipulates that the minimum qualification for a person to be called a journalist is a bachelor’s degree in journalism or a separate degree with additional training in the field.
Following the move by parliament, practitioners have criticised Parliament for not having taken into account the earlier concerns by ARJ, the Press House and other individual media practitioners.
“There were consultations by MPs to different media houses and most of these concerns are part of the recommendations we made; why did they not take that into account beforehand when the bill was still before them?” questioned James Munyaneza, the Vice President of ARJ when contacted.
He said that the largest component of the bill is generally acceptable apart from the very articles for which the scribes have been lamenting to be reversed in the best interest of the trade.
The media consultations are subsequent to a meeting that brought practitioners together with Information Minister Louise Mushikiwabo which resulted into the marathon consultations that were held on Wednesday.
Meanwhile the media body has expressed optimism that the law will be brought back to parliament to carter for the concerns raised by the practitioners.
According to Gaspard Safari the ARJ president, the fact that the parliamentarians have requested to have a look at it shows that something can be done.
“More so, the meeting into which we came up with the resolution was a result of another one we held with the information minister which shows that our concerns might be addressed,” said Safari.
He said that the reason the matter has attracted attention was because of the seriousness the fraternity has shown in making their concerns heard.
The seven-page document containing the recommendations raises concerns on issues in the bill including criminalisation of libel and defamation, holding parliamentary plenary and committee sessions in camera among others.
Earlier this year, the upper chamber rejected some of the articles in the bill prompting the establishment of an ad hoc joint commission made up of lawmakers from both chambers to iron out their differences.
The main matter of contention then was the starting capital for setting up a media house which was later left to be determined by a Ministerial Decree.