08.05.2018 - UNESCO Office in Nairobi

Rwanda Celebrates World Press Freedom Day within a Changing Media Landscape

Secondary pupils from a Rwanda media club dramatize investigative journalism to demonstrate Press freedom, Copyright UNESCO 2018.

3 May 2018, Kigali, Rwanda – Media stakeholders, journalists, the national police and students jointly celebrated World Press Freedom Day in Rwanda with support from UNESCO. More than 100 participants participated in the half-day event under the theme Keeping Power in Check: Media, justice and the rule of law, emphasizing transparency of the political process, the independence and media literacy of the judicial system, and the accountability of state institutions towards the public.

With an attendance of more than 100 representatives from the Rwanda Governance Board (RGB), television (public and private), radio (community, public and private), print and online media; media development practitioners; educators, students from university-level journalism schools, and secondary students from Rwanda’s media clubs, a variety of panel discussions and presentation shed light on a number of topics related to press freedom in Rwanda and abroad. In particular, it included a panel discussion on the 2018 theme and discussed rule of law and the role of the media regulator, current challenges and opportunities in Rwanda, and how artistic freedom and press freedom relate. To demonstrate the growing relationship and collaboration between police and the media fraternity, a representative from Rwanda’s National Police was also in attendance and actively participated during the event.

Opening the session, Mr Gerald Mbanda from RGB discussed Rwanda’s recent legislative reforms to the media sector. He highlighted the government’s commitment to a free press devoted to the promotion of freedom of expression and strengthening of democracy through an evolving legal framework that facilitates journalists’ execution of their profession.

According to Mr Mbanda, “One such reform includes enactment of an access to information law to enable journalists and the general public to acquire information; also the self-regulatory mechanism is a big achievement and has done a great job in handling media-related complaints and cases. Speaking on the issue of Rule of Law, Mr Wallet, UNESCO Programme Coordinator, added that “For a State under the rule of law, this ideally calls for well-informed citizens, transparent political decisions, public debates on topics of common interest and a plurality of viewpoints that shapes opinions and undermines official truths and dogmatism.” He also mentioned “This power falls mainly to the press and the media in general, under all their guises and through various media.”

Expanding the concept of press freedom, UNESCO’s Freedom of Expression Toolkit, which was translated into Kinyarwanda and disseminated in Rwanda, was discussed and debated. Secondary students from Rwanda’s media clubs dramatized the practice of investigative journalism in a community setting and demonstrated how press freedom can either be helped or hindered. Related to this, the event included a panel discussion on sexual and gender based harassment in the media sector and media houses and how they need to expedite previous commitments to developing gender-fair policies. In order to shed light on these issues abroad and in Rwanda, UNESCO presented its “World Trends in Freedom of Expression and Media Development” report detailing a number these including increased threats to journalists in the execution of their profession. Finally, prior to closing the event, the Rwanda National Commission for UNESCO, awarded six generous financial awards to Rwandan journalists who demonstrated strong examples of press freedom in their work. Winning candidates ranged from print, web, and radio-based forms of the media sector.

Every year, 3 May is a date that celebrates the fundamental principles of press freedom, to evaluate press freedom around the world, to defend the media from attacks on their independence and to pay tribute to journalists who have lost their lives in the exercise of their profession. World Press Freedom Day was proclaimed by the UN General Assembly in 1993 following a Recommendation adopted at the twenty-sixth session of UNESCO's General Conference in 1991. It serves as an occasion to inform citizens of violations of press freedom - a reminder that in dozens of countries around the world, publications are censored, fined, suspended and closed down, while journalists, editors and publishers are harassed, attacked, detained and even murdered. It is a date to encourage and develop initiatives in favour of press freedom, and to assess the state of press freedom worldwide.

 

More information of World Press Freedom Day commemorations around the world 2018 




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