CPJ sat down recently with the Rwandan minister of information, Louise Mushikiwabo, who spoke of several media developments, including a new press law. “I am convinced the new legislation will help professionalize our media—there were many holes in the former law,” she told CPJ. Some, however, do not share her enthusiasm.
As former Rwanda University Lecturer Charles Kambanda points out, the law requires journalists to reveal their sources in court for any criminal investigation. “The principle of nondisclosure of sources in this field is a core ‘professional ethic.’ If we oblige this profession to disclose the sources, then we are actually closing the profession,” he said in a BBC interview.
Mushikiwabo, at left, also supports the inclusion of criminal defamation in the law—this includes such arbitrary clauses that punish journalists for “publications which endanger public decency.” But the minister told CPJ that any article that proves problematic can be amended in the future. President Paul Kagame had sent the bill back to parliament in May after listening to some concerns given by local media groups.
One way the minister sees the law improving the profession
is through its education requirements for journalists.
Although the minister said she is pleased with the local
radio stations in her country, she said
Umuseso Managing Director Didas Gasana, however, defends the article as an opinion piece that compared two governance systems, not personalities. Gasana said he thinks the suspension was the result of a June 27 press conference in which Mushikiwabo announced that “the days of Umuseso are numbered.” Prior to the new law, however, the minister would have made the final decision whether to suspend a publication—the media law now places such power in the hands of the Media High Council.
This doesn’t ease the mind of the director of Umuseso, Charles Kabonero, who says the
Media High Council is controlled by the government and will help the government
allay future blame for press censorship. According to a 2007 survey by the
nonprofit International Research and Exchanges
Kabonero told CPJ that the minister has blocked Umuseso’s access to government press conferences and state advertizing
revenue. “They always put forward the idea of a lack of professionalism in