Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Rwanda to host International Press Freedom Day at regional level

By Edwin Musoni

The Kigali-New Times
April 21, 2009


Alfred Ndahiro chatting with Louise Mushikiwabo at Kigali Serena Hotel yesterday. (Photo / G. Barya)

KIGALI - The Minister of Information, Louise Mushikiwabo, has condemned some government officials who deny journalists access to information.

Mushikiwabo said this during celebrations to mark Rwanda’s Press Freedom Day. She said that it was an opportunity for the Rwandan media to review past practices and how the profession was performing.

She said that media could not discharge their duties unless they are fed with information.

"We in Rwanda are marking this day as an opportunity to enhance and improve our press performance by giving it its true value for it to play its expected role of serving Rwandans, and by providing them with the required tools to tune their minds to progressive activities" the minister added.

Normally the international press freedom day is celebrated on May 3, and Rwanda chose to celebrate it on May 2, so that it captures national attention and not to interfere with the weekend.

The theme of this year’s Press Freedom Day is ‘access to information and individual autonomy’.

She went on to say that each profession deserves to be learnt and well done, with knowledge, skills, value and consideration.

"Information should not be left behind and that is why we take this opportunity as a benchmark to show how in our country information in various aspects is improving its performance," said Mushikiwabo.

The minister pointed out that the government was willing and had the capacity to support the media and said that only a performing press deserves freedom.

She requested media professionals to invest in their in-service media training and play a greater role in educating some of their colleagues who confuse media freedom with self-debasement.

"Let us therefore peg together the right to press freedom and the right to access to information," said Mushikiwabo.

Scribes shown the door

In a related development, three local journalists were asked to leave the function just before the afternoon session could begin.

The minister told The New Times that Burasa Jean Gualbert of Rushyashya, Charles Kabonero of Umuseso and the editor of Umuvugizi, Jean Bosco Gasasira were escorted from the venue at Serena Hotel because they were not invited.

"When we were preparing for the function, I gave instructions that four newspapers were not to be invited," she revealed.

She named the three newspapers mentioned above and Umucyo, whose editor, Bonaventure Bizimuremyi, is wanted by police.

"There was an oversight. When the meeting opened in the morning, no one paid attention, but we decided to let them have lunch but they would not be allowed to attend the afternoon session," she went on.

Mushikiwabo explained that she had decided to blacklist the four scribes after reading their publications before and after she became minister.

"They were deliberately not invited and they gate crashed the event. They are consistently negative, destructive and prone to personal attacks".

She went on to say that as long as they did not change their ways, they would continue to be shut out of any function organized by her office, press conferences included.

"We are not asking people to pander to the government but to be objective and ethical. I urge my colleagues not to grant any forum to journalists whose aim is not to educate, inform or entertain the public, " the tough-talking minister stressed.

The celebrations were also attended by among others; the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Rosemary Museminari, South African Ambassador Ezra Sigwela, and media professionals from Nigeria, Burundi and Tanzania.

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