Accountability and transparency, requirements for strong media

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While the media is often heard at the rooftops advocating for transparency and accountability amongst institutions of the government, the Leadership and Guiding Principles (LGPs) which were launched yesterday in Kigali urged media owners and managers to lead by example; ensuring accountability and transparency within their houses first before requesting others to.
The call on the media owners and managers in Rwanda to embrace the two pillars was made by the African Media Initiative (AMI) during a conference that brought together these proprietors and leaders of Rwanda’s media sector to discuss key issues that underlie it.

During this conference dubbed, “The Workshop on Leadership and Corporate good governance principles for media owners” which was convened in Kigali Rwanda on the 8th of May 2013, the sector’s leaders were exhorted to ensure that their services to the public and to those that they lead in the respective media houses be accountable and that the dealings of their trade too be transparent and without fault in order for the sector to grow sustainably.

Within the pillar of transparency for instance, the media owners were urged to be frank about the sources of their revenue and the specific financial interests that certain institutions might have in particular media houses which in return affect the content of the particular publication. Also, Trust, Corporate Good Governance and accountability within the media sector were equally emphasized as necessary pillars for founding a strong media sector.

Besides the LGPs, topical issues like “who is a journalist?” and “the sustainability of media houses without having to go to bed with politicians and other sponsors” within Rwanda’s media largely occupied the menu of the discussions by the media owners and debates on these were evidently heated ones.

For instance discussing the issue of the definition of who a journalist is, the over 70 owning and managing members of Rwanda’s media were split in a number of schools of thoughts which then entered into a lengthy debate proving that the topic is not one they can resolve among themselves.

Particular sections that one can dub the conservatives, advocated for the profession of journalism to be only for those who have had convincing training in the operations of the trade while others, the opponents of these, suggested that whoever can put pen to a book and scribble or punch the keys of a computer to produce words which then are disseminated through the media can be called a journalist.

These prominent schools of thoughts during the debate revealed a need for the law makers to revisit the definition of a journalist in Rwanda or to the least clarify it to the satisfaction of the men and women of the trade. However, the Media High Council, former media regulatory organ of the government, reiterated that the law was meant for the good of the development of the media.

“Defining a journalist as someone who is not necessarily a graduate of a media school, was done with an intention of opening up the sector to smart brains and talent that could bring creativity and innovation, it was never a way of underrating the journalism profession and opening it up to confusion and chaos,” scored Mugisha Emmanuel the acting Executive Secretary of the MHC.

AMI is a pan-Africa program that seeks to strengthen the continent’s media sector through advocacy, investments, technology, and training in order to boost quality and thus ensure sustainability of the media. According to Dr. Roukaya Kasenally the Director of Programmes and Knowledge Management at AMI, the institution through partnerships with the African Development Bank has US$1million allocated to the cause and more funding is still being sought.

By and large there is need to clarify the definition of a journalist and with similar emphasis, Rwanda’s media owners and managers need to embrace the pillars of Transparency, Corporate good governance, Trust and Accountability for a better media sector.

By Matthew Rwahigi
Posted 9th May 2013

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