Rwanda says no to hate media on World Press Freedom Day

May 6, 2016

One UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative, during a press briefing

06 May 2016 - The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Rwandan Government, media houses, media associations, development partners and other media partners, joined hands with media practitioners to celebrate the World Press Freedom Day.

At this occasion, a one-day dialogue was organised to reflect on  ‘hate media’ that played a key role in the incitement of radicalism and ethnicity that ultimately resulted in the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.

Under the theme ‘Turning the Page on Hate Media’, different participants especially media house owners, journalists and development partners supporting the media sector; exchanged ideas on how best the challenge of hate speech in the media can be resolved in the African continent. The participants discussed making fresh commitments to turn the page of hate media by launching a unified campaign.

This dialogue is a follow up to the first one held on the 17th and 18th 2014 in Kigali, where commitments were made to combat hate speech in the media. This dialogue itself is a result of the Kigali Declaration titled “Investing in Media to enhance Democratic Governance” signed on 27th and 28th November 2012, which is an agreement between different media practitioners and partners in Africa that seeks to foster the role of the media in sustainable development and accountable governance.

The event coincided with the 22nd commemoration of the Genocide against the Tutsi, where hate media played an imminent role in encouraging mass killings.  “Given the devastating effects of hate speeches in the history of this country, it is of utmost moral necessity that we all guard against the practice,” said Mr. Lamin M. Manneh, the UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative, in his opening remarks.

Mr. Manneh also commended the Media Sector in Rwanda for the progress made in the past two decades after the Genocide against the Tutsi including having enacted their own Code of Ethics as a gesture and commitment to their responsibility and to quality news. “I would like to commend the women and men of the press in Rwanda for the commendable job you are doing in not only informing, but also providing the channels for exchange of ideas and opinions.” added Mr. Lamin M. Manneh

The One UN Rwanda support the media sector through its program on “ Deepening Democratic and Accountable Governance working with the Rwanda Governance Board, the Media High Council, the Rwanda Media Commission, the Association of Rwandan Journalists and other media associations through the support of the Embassy of Sweden in Rwanda.  This program is being implemented in line with the media reforms in Rwanda which resulted in key milestones including the law regulating the media which introduced media self-regulation, the access to information law, the conversion of the former state broadcaster into a public service broadcaster, and the change of the mandate of Media High Council from statutory regulation to capacity building of the media.

The progress made in the media sector was further underlined by Prof. Shyaka Anastase, CEO of the Rwanda Governance Board, who highlighted some of the efforts made by the Government of Rwanda to strengthen the media sector.

“As the government, a wide range of media reforms were initiated that resulted in a revised Media Law, gazetted in February 2013.  The revised Law reduced the number of articles that were regarded as impediment to media freedom, from 90 to only 26 articles,” stated Prof. Shyaka. Some other important media reforms were made such as establishing the Rwanda Media Commission, a body that protects media freedom and journalistic ethics; enactment of access to information laws which is a law that allows easy access to public information for the media and the general public, and amendment of the media law.

At the event, key speakers from Rwanda, Burundi, Kenya and Uganda shared their country experiences of combating hate media and meeting the challenges posed by the surge in online platforms where hate speech is freely exchanged.

Speakers represented prominent national and international organisations with experience in monitoring and preventing hate media in the region such as National Commission For The Fight Against Genocide (CNLG), Africa Media Initiative, La Benevolencija, the Ethical Journalism Network as well as prominent media practioners and researchers.

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