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Rwanda Media: taking bold steps towards self regulation

Published on: 21-03-2014

Journalists in a previous election following the March 11 publication of the Official Ga­zette containing several new media-related laws including Media Law that provides for media self- regulation. Rwanda media fraternity has taken the bull by its horns and put in place an interim committee to deal with media issues.

The step comes after the Media High Council (MHC) which was previously charged with regulating the media was left with capacity building of the Media sector.

Article four of the new law creates a ‘media self regulatory body’ established by journalists whose task will be to ensure compliance with the principles governing the media and to defend the public interest.

This means that the government has relinquished the role of regulating the daily functioning of journalists but continues to regulate broadcast sectort through the Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority (RURA).

When the new law came into effect on 11th of March, it was necessary to fill the gap which had to be filled because MHC was not longer regulating media..

Different media associations came together and formed an immediate interim committee of 13 members of which nine are practicing journalists while the rest are from Civil Society,Bar Association, Private Sector Federation and Academia.

According to Fred Muvunyi a member of the committee from the Association of Rwandan Journalist (ARJ), there had to be something that would feel the gap that was created by the new law.

“The interim committee will however, work for only six months and a permanent regulatory body will be put in place,” said Muvunyi.

The new Media law, N’02/2013 of 08/02/2013, regarding media regu­lation came into force to replace the older law N’ 22/2009 of 12/08/2009 after almost two years of legislative procedure.

The new law according to media stakeholders is a grand victory for the media in Rwanda and of civil soci­ety experts say it marks a ‘turning point’ for the press in the country.

According to Ignatius Kabagambe, the media development project coordinator at the Rwanda Governance Board described the new media law which grants self-regulation, a landmark concession by the government.

Following the new law, MHC will now remain with the work of promoting a profession­ally vibrant media through improving pro­fessionalism and building capacity especially in areas of media content development, busi­ness development as well as promoting an enabling environment.

Another outstanding concession in the law is that of starting a new print publication or media house. It will no longer require any minimum capital as was the case in the old law where one would need a minimum of Rwf100 million to start a TV or Rwf60 million for a radio sta­tion.

The new law also brings into play several freedoms that were not provided by the old law. For instance, censorship is pro­hibited under the new law and unless the information jeopardizes general public or­der and morals. Journalists are mandated to defend freedom of information, analyze and comment on information for the general pur­pose of educating and informing the public.

However, Prof. Anastase Shyaka, the CEO of the Rwanda Governance Board, emphasizes the need for maturity and responsibility on the part of the media practioners as they exercise the new freedoms and self-regulation.

He warns that it is important that all parties involved in these efforts understand that media freedoms are given with the mutual spirit of promoting national development and not instability.

By News of Rwanda

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