Many people have written to bemoan the high propensity of the so-called “independent” media to spread misinformation and, quite often, blatant falsehoods on Rwanda. The international media apart, since some have no interest in the affairs of this country, while others are driven by hidden agendas, a perusal through our local “independent” print weeklies, monthlies and quarterlies leaves one with a bad taste in the mouth.
Where are researched, analytical and investigative reports that one can pleasantly chew over? Here I must hasten to laud the efforts of “The New Times Media Group” in encouraging a variety of minds to get to their readers, by advertising for writers who can give interpretive contributions. Lacking in a reading culture, as many have bewailed in these pages, we Rwandans may most likely disappoint in quickly answering the call of writing, but at least somebody has thrown the gauntlet to us.
And there is no doubt that we shall be encouraged by the emergence of an increasingly forceful, penetrating reporting that we are witnessing in “The New Times”, especially “Insight” magazine. Other newspapers should learn from the rising popularity of the English daily, despite its handicap of publishing in one language, and see the sense that reporting only what is negative and falsifying information are not synonymous with being independent.
Much as we as humans are not averse to a doze of gossip, especially as Rwandans, it must be known that we are eager to be informed on positive ideas and actions being propagated and that may have a direct impact or a bearing on our lives, or which are being propagated on our behalf. The whole media needs to take an impartial look at the developments in our society and point out not only what is negative, but what is positive as well.
For instance, I was intrigued to see newspapers in another country getting excited to hear what we here listen to practically every day, but which does not elicit a stir of reaction in our local “independent” press. It is now almost two months since President Paul Kagame presented a paper to a seminar in Abuja, Nigeria, but none of the self-proclaimed “independent” weeklies or monthlies has had the indulgence to educate us on the thrust of that speech that so excited the Nigerian media.
President Kagame addressed the challenges of leadership and governance, a topic that must have resonated well with the Nigerian civil society. It is a topic, however, that should interest all societies that care for themselves and their people and, so, what excited the Nigerians should animate even those beyond the African continent. In Nigeria, they were happy that President Kagame put a finger on, among others, two main challenges that face African politics: the absence of “politics of ethics” and an abundance of “politics of entitlement”.
By political ethics, he explained, “I simply mean principled behaviour and purposeful responsibility by those who seek political office.” And, “the entitlement syndrome has seriously encroached on the culture of merit needed for enabling politics to become a vehicle to serve.”
In the view of the Nigerian media, if politicians stopped pursuing the perks that go with political office and adopted a “merit culture”, where “able leadership is held accountable and … leaders hold responsible those they enlist to support them in delivery of public services”, as Kagame told them, it would mean a whole lot of many things.
All of which we have been listening to, without similar appreciation. Members of our communities must exercise their freedom to mix and exchange ideas so as to come to a mediated conclusion of what is best for their sustained, all-round growth. Citizens must organise and together identify their needs and how best to serve them, using available resources effectively and optimally.
They have a stake in the running of their nations and all national institutions and processes are answerable to them; they are there to serve them. However, there must be legal frameworks so that decisions are taken or enforced following rules and regulations, rules which are known to all, and favour none.
President Kagame was telling the Nigerians, as he has told Rwandans countless times, that good governance is their right. All political actors and processes must serve it. Difficult as it is to attain, good governance is an ideal that we must all strive to achieve.
And the public must be given this awareness, an endeavour for which the media should be proud to assume a leading role.