The African Media Dialogue takes place in Rwanda

Nov 28, 2012

Annual National Dialogue on Media Development. Photo: UNDP/Nausicaa Kantengwa

Kigali.- The 5th Bi-annual General Assembly of the African Editors Forum (TAEF) was hosted for the first time in Rwanda in combination with the country’s 4th Annual National Dialogue on Media Development. Editors, Media owners, representatives of media NGOs, and journalists from 34 countries met during two days to discuss on the importance of “Investing in the Media to enhance Democratic Governance”.

The two events were co-organized by the Media High Council (MHC), the Rwanda Governance Board (RGB), the African Editor’s Forum, and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). Hon. Musoni James, Rwanda’s Minister of Local Government launched the events. The Minister said the occasion “provides a unique platform for sharing experiences and best practices with a view to practically build a strong media, democratic governance, economic progress, and the social transformation of our societies”.

The Government of Rwanda has embarked an ambitious media sector reform process. Rwanda acknowledges the significance of independent, professional media as part of the democratization process and as a driver for economic development. Hon. Musoni stated that the country has developed a “series of reforms aimed at building a vibrant, responsible and modern media industry”. He added that there are key policy decisions the Government of Rwanda has made to transform the media sector such as allowing for print media self-regulation.  At the same time, Parliament is debating a number of bills related to media sector reform such as the Access to Information bill, the Media High Council bill, and the Rwanda Broadcasting Authority (RBA) bill.

The Annual Media Dialogue was launched in 2009. The Annual Media Dialogue focuses on how to build the capacity of the media sector in Rwanda and how to foster its development with the aim of achieving the objectives of the country’s Media Policy.

The expected outcomes of the 5th Bi-annual General Assembly of the African Editors Forum and Rwanda’s 4th Annual National Dialogue on Media Development were: (1) to establish feasible mechanisms for media sustainability support; (2) to determine the progress of small and medium enterprises in a competitive media market; (3) to draw together ideas for the creation of a resourceful and self-sustaining accountability mechanisms of the media (or a self-regulatory body); (4) To combine synergies and harmonize efforts to support media’s economic viability; and (5) to build workable strategies to sell Africa to global audiences by telling true and relevant African stories.

 “How can we get Africa to tell its own story from the continent’s perspective”? That is the question Hon. Musoni suggested should be addressed at the core of the discussions between the participants. 

The second day of the 4th National Dialogue on Media Development and The African Editors Forum (TAEF) 5th Bi-annual General Meeting opened a debate on how Africans are imaged among themselves and what roles and responsibilities political leaders and the media have in positioning the continent’s Media internationally. The key speakers during these discussions were Hon. Collins Chabane, South African Minister in the Presidency for Performance Monitoring and Evaluation; Hon. Louise Mushikiwabo, Rwanda’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation; Dr. Elham Mahmood Ibrahim, AU’s Commissioner for Infrastructure and Energy; Mr. Collin Haba, Rwanda’s “New Times” Editor; Ms. Aishatu Sule, Deputy Director News of “Radio Kano FM” (Nigeria); and Mr. Mondli Makhanya, Former Editor-in-Chief of  the South African “Sunday Times” and Chairperson of the South African National Editors Forum.

Mr. Mathatha Tsedu, the former Chairman of TAEF briefed participants on the main objective of TAEF. He said that TAEF was created when African editors decided to come together in 2003 to raise up a number of issues including how Africa is portrayed among Africans and to the rest of the world (e.g. as a continent of war, famine, drought, etc.).

“It is a responsibility that is shared amongst all of us to define ourselves, to discuss our problems, to show where this continent is going … our voices are not loud enough!” said Hon. Mushikiwabo. That “Africa is moving but the African editors are not keeping the pace …we have to be very deliberate about how we portray ourselves, we have to seize the right that we have as Africans to define ourselves, to say who we are. That does not keep anybody else from defining us, but the problem we have today is that most of what is said about Africa is said by non-Africans…the positioning of our continent in terms of its image is necessary, it will come from us, it is urgent, and this debate needs to continue”. The minister also encouraged constructive criticism and responsibility from the media as a way of developing the sector on the continent.

 Hon. Chabane observed that “a forum of this type has for role to create connections between media from across the continent”. He added that Africa’s diversity should be brought into cohesion by the African political leaders, entrepreneurs, and the editors, and that “we must ensure that Africa is perceived in the correct way, with the image we want to show of it”.

Mr. Makhanya included that African media should communicate the good things which take place on the continent and communicate the image of an independent Africa. That portraying Africa in the right way “…begins with us: we have to be interested in each other”. Mr. Haba added that African journalists must be able to rely on each other from across the continent in terms of sharing the right information.  

Some of the various issues raised by the panelists and the participants are:

  1. The lack of adequate infrastructure and staff to be able to reach out to the rest of the continent
  2. Media security and freedom of speech
  3. The fact that politicians and the media should have easier access to each other in terms of sharing information
  4. Networking and creating a news basket for media to have easier access to information from across the continent
  5. The absence of African media’s voices in reporting on Africa

Hon. Chabane suggested that the participants should identify the critical areas to address and decide on the way forward. After the debate, TAEF elected its new leadership for a two-year term:

(1) Mr. Cheriff Sy was re-elected as Chairperson

(2) Ms. Faith Mbabazi, the Chief news Editor of Rwanda Radio is the new Deputy Chair

(3) Ms. Emrakeb Assefa, a Lecturer of the Faculty of Journalism and Communication at Addis
Ababa University is the new Secretary-General

(4) Mr. Mondli Makhanya, Chairperson of the South African National Editors Forum, is the Treasurer

(5) Mr. Xavier Deutchoua, Cameroonian blogger, is in charge of Projects and Leadership

(6) Ms. Aishatu Sule is responsible for Media Freedom issues

In the future, TAEF members expressed their intentions to organize these debates with African heads of states. The following meeting of TAEF will take place in Chad in 2014.