Yashyizweho kuri 29 May, 2017 | 13:42

PAX PRESS and NPA launch survey: Media and Policymaking in Rwanda

An overwhelming majority of stories published in newspapers or broadcasted in radio shows and TV - 71.2% - comes from government officials. Most of them picked up at press conferences and workshops. The picture the survey “Media and Policymaking in Rwanda” gives of the investigative skills and opportunities of the media in Rwanda is rather watery.

PAX PRESS, the Rwandan journalist network, with financial support of Norwegian Aid People (NPA) commissioned the survey which will set a new ground for the future of journalism in Rwanda. The survey was conducted by a researching team of MGC Consult International at the end of 2016 to find out if and to what extent media in Rwanda influence public policy processes. The results of the survey built the foundation for a vivid discussion with stakeholders from ministries, local authorities, civil society organizations, media houses and donor community during the launch of the survey on Friday 26 May 2017. Furthermore, the findings and recommendations will hopefully kick start a fruitful process on how media can influence policymaking more effectively in the future.

The objective of the study is to gauge and document the extent to which media covers and reports government policy, but also to identify gaps and challenges journalists and media houses face when doing so. The study was guided by the questions how and to what extent the media cover and report on government policies, how far media influence policymaking processes and what the opportunities and challenges are, the media face while reporting on policies. The findings include the perceptions of journalists, media managers, owners and managers of civil society organizations as well as content analysis of media outputs.

“I am certain that the findings and recommendations of the survey plus the views being raised at the discussion will influence further decisions and activities to empower the media in its role of public policymaking”, stated Albert-Baudouin Twizeyimana, National Coordinator of PAX PRESS. He stressed on the fact, that media plays a relevant role for both rights-holders – civil society and duty bearers – governmental officials: "Media needs not only to inform citizens on the implementation of policies but also has the responsibility to influence government’s policies and agendas when needed”. He believes, that the media needs to improve its work and profile as the profession in Rwanda is often seen only as a follower of government’s policies but not as an influence. “It was eye-opening to hear, that the lack of investigative stories in Rwandan media are caused by fear, inadequate skills and missing teachers”, says Diane Mushimiyimana, a journalist. Oswald Mutuyeyezu, Chief Editor of City Radio thinks that the survey proves that Rwandan media outlets needs to improve in terms of investigative journalism. “Another important point is that citizens are given only a small space in the media to raise their voices regarding policies. Apparently government officials being the most heard in such stories. This should be another way round.”

The thinks that a lack of proper training for journalists and the difficult financial situation in the media sector is the root cause of poor quality in Rwandan media. “I think the media need to improve their capacities but the government already assist by providing trainings through the Media High Council. PAX PRESS should work closely with the government and decision makers on national level as local authorities are just the implementers”, believes Janvier Ndayizeye, communication officer of prime minister.

The team of researchers found out, that policy issues are being covered highly in the media: 94.2% of media content is somehow linked to policy issues – either through hard news stories, interpretive stories, features, commentaries or letters to the editor. Not surprisingly privately owned media outlets produce more commentaries and investigative or interpretive stories than publicly owned media outlets. Overall, 71.2% of all stories come from government officials, most of them picked up from workshops, meetings, press conferences. Only 4.2% come from citizens, 6.6% from the private sector and business leaders, 8.5% from civil society organizations and 2.4% from members of the development/donor community.

Overall, 78.8% of respondents believe that the government supports covering and reporting its policies and 61.2% stated that media reports critical on policies issues, while 24.4% say that the outlets „always support or favor government policies”. In addition, only 45.5% of respondents stated that media does investigative reporting. During the content analysis the researcher found out, that 84.9% of the publications and broadcasts support government policies, whereas only 6% oppose and 8.8% of it comes up with recommendations and suggestions on policies. The survey states that 16.9% of the analyzed content indicates difficulty for journalists to freely report on policies.

The researchers recommend capacity building for journalists in the field of public policy processes as well as trainings on how to conduct efficient and effective editorial meetings that generate policy oriented stories in order to become independent from official events. Furthermore, it is suggested to train journalists in effective interviewing/listening and ethnographic data gathering techniques in order to ask focused and pointed questions. “Those trainings would also enable journalists to use figures and facts from other sources alongside what officials say to gauge the truthfulness of statements made about policies and their consequences rather than reporting unquestioningly,” said Albert-Baudouin Twizeyimana.

The team of researchers also came to the conclusion that capacity building on specialized reporting, particularly investigative and interpretative journalism, as well as trainings for media houses and journalist associations to develop internal cohesion to improve professional socialization. Training media managers and media owners on entrepreneurship would also be one step to empower the profession.


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