Let the media play its role!
What is the role of media in society? The Media is the ‘eyes and ears’ of society, meaning that they are at liberty under the law to portray detailed analyses and pictures of societal issues without fear or favor.
Therefore with such a role, why cover up information because it’s affecting a certain group of people yet it’s a social issue. There is always need to expose social vices such as corruption, sexual abuse, violence and much more. Culprits should be exposed to serve as living examples for everyone in society to see; in this way social, economic and political standards get amended for the better. In order to foster independence and a responsible media in Rwanda, the defamation offence in light of given circumstances under which a story is written should be decriminalized.
Article 19 of the 2009 Media Law, states that defamation is a crime and imprisonment for a minimum of three years is the verdict. This is so unfair in cases where journalists are intentionally sucked up into a web of lies by ‘credible’ sources—their intention to tarnish a name is usually innocent.
The media acts as a platform for public debate and scrutiny of public officials alongside policies. However, with defamatory criminal offences in place, which are usually vague and unclear, room is left for prominent and wealthy people to get away with breaking the law simply because they can manipulate existing evidence and hence innocent journalists are victimized.
Ethically, journalists aim at portraying their role in society, however, what cannot be done away with are the malicious people existing in all corners of society. Even with a story that has all the 5W’s and a clear H, the right sources could be malicious enough to give wrong information to a journalist in order to get back to their rivals and opponents.
Since no journalist is God, they cannot foretell the inner intentions of their sources and end up trapped in a mess.
Due to the criminal penalties for acts of defamation, a self-censoring climate is created and nurtured within media houses and journalists at large.