Minister’s Order (PMO) defining the specific mission of the Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Agency (RURA) with regard to media, as an opportunity to undermine the principle of media self-regulation in the country and give the state an upper hand to control the press.
According to a document that Great Lakes Voice has seen, Rwanda Media Commission, the self-regulatory body, is in arms with elements in government that are pushing to create co-regulation instead of self- regulation.
The new draft PMO states that RURA will closely monitor the content which undermines national security, content which harbors Genocide ideology and pornography.
RMC is also opposed to the move by the state to change the mandate of Rwanda Utility Regulation Agency (RURA) to be called a Public organ to regulate the media.
“We recommend that RURA be called a public organ in charge of the technical regulation of the media only. We propose that the MoU we have with RURA be captured in the PMO.”
According to the new draft prime minister’s order, government through utility regulatory agency wants to license all media organs in Rwanda and control the content of radios, TV stations, and internet and also regulate the film industry.
The new draft emerged after the previous draft which had been agreed upon by RURA, the ministry of local government and journalists represented by the Rwanda Journalists Association and the Rwanda Media Commission was frustrated by elements in government keen to reverse the ongoing media reforms.
While attending discussions on the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) hosted by Ministry of Justice on Wednesday, Rwanda Governance Board CEO Prof Anastase Shyaka said he is of view that RMC remains regulating journalists’ conduct only.
On March 12, 2013 when the Media law which ushered in self-regulation came into force, journalists established the Rwanda Media commission (RMC), which has since taken independent stands on political issues against government wishes most notably on the reaction following the controversial BBC documentary “Rwanda: Untold story”.
The RMC objected to the government closure of the BBC Kinyarwanda service since the documentary was produced by BBC 2 broadcasting in England.
The RMC independence has however, not come without any consequence. The RMC which enjoys popular legitimacy among journalists and media practitioners is seen as an obstacle to those who want to control media and limit press freedom.
The RMC analysis further states that; “using the distinction between “journalistic content” and “non-journalistic content” as a basis for differentiating what should be regulated under “laws and regulations” and what should be regulated under the Code of Ethics, is confusing.”
“The [draft] PMO makes no reference at all to the Memorandum of Understanding between RMC and RURA which was signed in November 2013, as part of the provisions of the Media Law. In omitting the contents of this document, the PMO argues positions that are contrary to the working arrangement between RURA and RMC as elaborated under the MOU,” the document adds.
Analysts say that officials who had not expected journalists would establish an independent body beyond their control and influence have begun to scheme to reverse the policy of self-regulation.
Government sources indicate that the officials are largely motivated by their desire to increase the powers of the institutions they lead to gain bigger budgets rather than defend national interests. It is these officials who are said to be misleading cabinet ministers by giving them false information on media issues.
On 30th March 2011, President Paul Kagame chaired a cabinet meeting that resolved that the government would pursue media self-regulation. The media laws were amended accordingly.