Press Release on Rwanda Media Elections Violation | Rwanda

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Press Release on Rwanda Media Elections Violation

On 19th January 2010, Rwandan Journalists from the Private media convened in order to elect two members amongst themselves to represent them to the National High Media Council-a government agency that has taken over most duties of the Ministry of Information. The Media Council answers to the Ministry of Information, with the role to monitor and regulate the media sector. The council is composed of nine members. The government appoints the executive secretary plus other three council members, two members are nominated by the private media through their professional association, one is nominated by the state/public media, one by the media training institutions and one by Rwandan citizens.

According to Rwanda News Agency (RNA) story of 20th January 2010, the Director General of the Ministry of Information Mr. Ignatius Kabagambe, had sent out an invitation letter which indicated that each media house would have one vote. To the big surprise of the electorate present, The New Times Newspaper and Radio Contact FM mobilized and brought in all their entire staff members, including support-staff to participate in the elections and exceeding by far, the number stipulated by the Ministry of Information.

Several Representatives of Private Media houses present, contested that action, but elections went forward and the controversial vote saw Mr. Arthur Asiimwe, The New Times Managing Editor, and Radio Contact FM’s Managing Director, Mr. Albert Rudatsimburwa elected to the nine-member media council. Both The New Times and Contact FM are private companies but other media houses consider them as government-owned, according to RNA. Other media houses dismissed the results of the election as a sham and walked out in protest. They argued that the process was sabotaged to bring in people close to government.

They replaced the two outgoing members, Mr. Bahati Prince of Radio UMUCO and Father Pierre Nkusi – Editor of Kinyamateka Newspaper. The two also did not attend the elections.

The Democratic Green Party of Rwanda, in its efforts to fight for Press/media freedom in Rwanda would like to make the following remarks :

1. We do not doubt the ability and competence of the two gentlemen elected. Indeed they are seasoned journalists, but we strongly condemn the manner in which the election process was conducted. Any election process to any office must be free, fair, transparent and devoid of any form of manipulation, coercion and rigging.

2. The Media Houses in Rwanda are part and parcel of the society’s fourth estate (arm of government) therefore, stand as a beacon of hope in the country that is trying to build its democratic institutions. Any type of election in which they are involved must be exemplary and above reproach, lest they loose the moral high ground they enjoy in the day to day life of the society and fail to properly report the upcoming August 2010 Presidential elections.

3. By refusing to adhere to the Ministerial instructions and doing it their way, those implicated in this scandal are indirectly bringing back and perpetuating the culture of impunity which has characterized Rwanda for so long.

4. We therefore strongly condemn that election process and call upon all peace loving journalists to challenge it, using legally acceptable, legitimate and non-violent means.

Done at Kigali, 22nd January 2010


Chairman, Democratic Green Party of Rwanda