Rwanda: Parliament Wants Government Media to be able to keep up with Foreign Broadcasts

Regulation & Policy

Lawmakers in the lower chamber are demanding that government comes up with a plan to develop government media with the aim of countering the influence that foreign media is having locally, RNA reports.

In a session Tuesday in which Information Minister Louise Mushikiwabo had been summoned, several lawmakers wondered why government media was not able to compete for local audience with broadcasters such the BBC and VOA.

At the heart of their concerns was to have the minister explain why people in large parts of Rwanda were not accessing local TV and Radio signal but were able to listen to foreign stations.
This according to the lawmakers is what is compounding the problem of Genocide denial - commonly known here as Genocide Ideology. A parliamentary report last year blamed international broadcasters like the BBC and VOA for airing programs that do not apparently support the reconciliation process in Rwanda.

Government needs to find ways of how media can play a reverse role to what the hate radio RTLM did in propagating hate, said RPF's Kayiranga Gédéon. "Besides I also want to challenge foreign media like the BBC, VOA, Deutsche Welle - and others - which broadcast to Rwanda that they have corporate responsibility to take part in our fight against Genocide Ideology".

But this will change when live coverage starts in all media stations in the country, as part of ambitious reforms the Speaker announced in his acceptance speech in January this year.

According to some lawmakers, the audience here prefers foreign broadcasts because 'our own state media takes days to air the same news item'. Minister Mushikiwabo told the lawmakers that government had already worked out a plan to reorganize the government broadcaster - ORINFOR - with the view to reaching out to 'between 97 and 99 % of Rwandans in six months'.

"News is not just events taking place in hotels or coverage for officials - but the media needs to develop analytical ways to discuss the issues behind the events" she said. "That is why not only is government going to expand the coverage of radio and TV but the nature of the content will be reviewed profoundly."

According to her, South African broadcaster SABC and Rhodes University journalism school have been engaged to train journalists at the Rwandan state broadcaster. New antennas will be installed across the country and the number of community Radios increased from three to five covering the previously left out areas. However, she said it would be costly to have equipment that allows timely and expanded coverage of news events.

"A Television OB Van costs about 1.5 million dollars and that of Radio goes for 400,000 dollars - which equipment should enable the state broadcaster to transmit news programs immediately", she explained amid roars from the House. "Like you can see this is a lot of money but we are working out an interim solution that will go along way to helping us establish a new strategy of how we can reach out to all Rwandans."

(Kigali) 15 July 2008