Rwanda: BBC and Government Reach New Agreement


BBC has agreed to take rigorous checks in the editorial line of their Kinyarwanda programme commonly known as Gahuzamiryango to meet the standards of the Rwandan government, before it is restored back on the Rwandan airwaves.

Speaking to The New Times in a phone interview last week, Information Minister Information, Louise Mushikiwabo confirmed that the government reached a stand with the BBC team that was in the country last week led by Jerry Timmins. Timmins is the head of BBC Middle East.

During the meeting with government, the team agreed to make changes in the programme which the government says undermines the unity and reconciliation drive due to its 'divisive and disparaging nature'. "BBC acknowledged that something was wrong and agreed to put more rigorous editorial checks on Kinyarwanda broadcasts my government will continue to engage with them in trying to solve problem," Mushikiwabo told The New Times.

Last month the government removed the programme off the airwaves, citing the April 25 broadcast in which during its Imvo ni Mvano section, individuals were given airtime to utter statements that deliberately negated the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi and were 'no longer acceptable'.

According to Mushikiwabo, who is also the government spokesperson, BBC had been warned in 2003 about the nature of the programme and an agreement was reached, in which BBC would have to comply with some of the arguments the Rwanda government cited.

The letter sent to Timmins last month states that BBC breached Article 1.3.3 of the April 1 2003 Agreement between the BBC and the Government of Rwanda which states;

"The BBC shall in respect of its broadcast programmes, not broadcast any material which is likely to incite violence, hatred or divisionism."

"BBC will put in writing that commitment to more sensitive reporting and then the government will examine it before the programme gets back on air in FM," said Mushikiwabo. She downplayed the fact that the accessibility of the programme in shortwave and online lends rendering the ban ineffective, arguing that what the government intended was to send a 'strong signal' to the BBC that the Kinyarwanda broadcasts are 'no longer acceptable' hence the ban on FM airwaves.

She also downplayed the fact that the programme is still available especially in the Southern Province where it is accessible on its Burundi affiliate of Radio Bonesha. "We really don't find that offensive, our message has already been driven home. I am sure we will also restore the broadcasts as soon as BBC meets our demands as they have promised," said Mushikiwabo.

(source : New Times)