06.12.2016 - UNESCO Office in Nairobi

Students and Teachers in Rwanda Review and Validate the UNESCO Freedom of Expression Toolkit for Use in the National Context

Secondary students and teachers from across Rwanda gather to discuss UNESCO’s Freedom of Expression Toolkit to improve its use and dissemination nationally, Copyright UNESCO 2016.

6 December 2016, Kigali, Rwanda – UNESCO, in collaboration with the Rwanda Media Commission (RMC) and the UNESCO National Commission for Rwanda, and supported financially by the Government of Sweden, organised a 1-day workshop that assembled secondary students and teachers, and tertiary level students, whom are associated with media clubs across Rwanda, to review and validate the UNESCO Freedom of Expression Toolkit: A Guide for Students for use in Rwanda. While freedom of expression is one of the most debated concepts and issues of recent times, and much has been written about the topic, few publications have been written with secondary level youth as the main target audience. Since young women and men must be empowered and literate in the concepts and issues of freedom of expression to become discerning citizens living in a democratic society, this publication—by targeting youth—is an attempt to remedy this gap.

According to Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers”. Recently translated into Kinyarwanda, this toolkit has potential to reach a wider segment of Rwandan youth thereby increasing collective knowledge of the precepts of freedom of expression and the resulting free flow of ideas fundamental to the practice of good governance, the establishment of democratic principles, and the exercising of universal human rights. Overall, the Toolkit consists of four major components:

1) Understanding freedom of expression definitions, concepts, and issues;

2) Identifying threats to freedom of expression;

3) Identifying conditions favourable to freedom of expression; and

4) Doing one’s part in promoting and defending freedom of expression through practical activities.

Working in teacher-led groups, the workshop objectives were to:

i) Discuss the content of the toolkit and ensure it meets the needs of Rwandan youths and the national context;

ii) Provide comments/ feedback including the identification of content gaps that are relevant to the Rwandan context, and for which new material could be developed; and

iii) Identify activities and means for using the toolkit in their own media clubs and related activities including a dissemination strategy.

Participants acknowledged the important role of the toolkit to increase access to information and knowledge of freedom of expression, particularly given its translation to Kinyarwanda. The toolkit content was overwhelmingly found to be relevant to the Rwandan context. Moreover, students drew links between the growth of freedom of expression and the establishment of media self-regulatory bodies such as the RMC that help guide in areas of protection of journalists, freedom of access to information, the proliferation of local community radio, and rising use of social media whereby people can freely express their opinion and ideas.

Participants articulated the role of media in building and reinforcing of Rwandan society through effective journalism that reaches out to local, rural and remote communities thus ensuring capacity is universally established among all localities and the general population to access information and express their ideas and opinions freely. In light of this, one content gap might be related to the means for increasing involvement and engagement of the wider community and related networks through various training, awareness building activities and tools. Content that sensitizes users to existing laws that protect people to freely express themselves was also identified as a gap.

There is no one particular way of utilizing the Toolkit. It can be used as a reference or a starting point on the concepts and issues related to freedom of expression, or it could be used as a source of ideas for activities and projects to promote freedom of expression. The Toolkit also contains extensive lists of other resources related to freedom of expression including websites, directories, etc. During the workshop, participants explored means to use the toolkit through activities hosted by their respective media clubs that help communities to express ideas and opinions freely. They requested that UNESCO support the dissemination of the toolkit by i) distributing hardcopies in schools; ii) developing user friendly items such as brochures and leaflets; and iii) sharing all publications through social media, youth clubs and local meetings.

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