NEW YORK, December 8, 2014— The Rwandan government has taken great strides in bringing stability to the country since the 1994 genocide that claimed 800,000 lives, but moves to allow greater press freedom have been slow, the Committee to Protect Journalists found in a report released today.
While government control of the media has loosened, many journalists remain fearful that regulations put in place to protect the media are not enough to stop the harassment and threats, and that a lack of investment is damaging their professional reputation.
“An independent, critical press has a vital role to play in promoting development in Rwanda,” said Sue Valentine, CPJ Africa Program Coordinator. “While we are acutely aware of the role of certain media during the horrors of 1994, Rwanda’s remarkable progress in rebuilding itself must include nurturing a culture of freedom of expression. Journalists must be free to ask critical questions, tell uncomfortable truths, and facilitate an exchange of views in order to deepen democracy and ensure durable development.”
The report, written by Anton Harber, chairman of the Freedom of Expression Institute in South Africa and former co-editor of a leading anti-apartheid newspaper, examines the effect of the genocide on media regulation, the ensuing legal reforms, and the rising trend of self-censorship in the Rwandan media. The report also highlights off-limits topics, such as criticism of President Paul Kagame or Rwanda’s military activity in neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo, and identifies the importance of investing in media and investigative journalism.
In the report’s recommendations, CPJ presses the Rwandan government to investigate and prosecute attacks on journalists, and calls on the European Union to make press freedom a pillar of human rights, and the international community to continue to support professional media development in Rwanda.
SOURCE: Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)