Empowering the Rwandan Peace and Democracy Journalists Network
Since the end of 1994 genocide in which “hate” media played a major role both before and during the events, and following the liberalization of the airwaves in the late 2000s, Rwanda’s media landscape has seen tremendous change in terms of the number of media houses and the quality of the programmes. From overreliance on a single state owned media and a few government-controlled print media, the nation today boasts over 20 FM stations and one public TV channel, as well as over 40 newspapers, thanks to new laws on press issues, in particular law N°22/2009 of 12/08/2009 on Media. The plurality of the media however, in terms of content and orientation, leaves much room for improvement. Rwandan media still appears on the verge of a cultural and professional renaissance. The initial political, educational and professional steps have been taken to expand and to improve the media environment, if capital resources allow.
Despite the novelty of independence, growth and flourishing of media houses in Rwanda, potential is lacking in promoting democracy and governance, peace building and bridging the information gap between rural and urban dwellers. Low-revenue generation, untrained members and staff, weaknesses in Rwandan journalists’ associations, lack of modern equipment and lack of permanent staff and staff-based activities, are some challenges that confront many of the national media houses by threatening their ability to provide the much-needed social service. Independent media houses are in principle expected to be owned, managed and supported by community members. However, a lack of understanding and appreciation of the concept of independent media makes this principle of community ownership and management unrealistic. Levels of community support are equally nonexistent, because paying for information is an entirely new concept to Rwandans in general. Besides, levels of poverty in areas like Rwanda’s villages make community support a no-go area when it comes to considering options for the financial sustainability of local media houses.
It is for these reasons that ETOILE.COM Agency, through this project, will aim to strengthen and empower the Rwandan Peace and Democracy Journalists Network (RPDJN) to improve performance on its core mandate of providing information on governance, democracy, peace building, unity and reconciliation, sanitation, health, environment or agriculture, as well as bringing media close to the people as a way of democratizing the media landscape in Great lakes region. For increased success of this project, the collaboration with the National University of Rwanda (NUR) / Great Lakes Media Centre (GLMC) as a training agency will be necessary. Based on UNESCO’s Model Curricula for Journalism education and in collaboration with NUR/GLMC, a team of 25 journalists will be trained on issues relating to democracy, good governance and peace, in order to improve their media professional role effectively and efficiently. The project also seeks to procure a production unit for the Rwandan Peace and Democracy Journalists Network (RPDJN) for the production of programmes on peace, democracy and good governance, to be distributed to the various media outlets (especially the 20 FM stations in the country). A website for the RPDJN network will also be established.