Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The worst predetors of our independance are ourselves

Julien M. Niyingabira

Journalism independence and being passionate about seeking the truth were the two major lessons that I have taken from Ohio University sessions. I was burning to bring them back in my daily editorial calls with an expectation to grow good journalists. The time without working with my journalists has not been an eternity but in it so many things have happened and invited some weak and young minds to dramatically change.

A few days ago, the elected Rwandan president sworn in. The very day of the presidential oath taking, I held an editorial meeting with journalists. The first idea discussed upon were to point out all political events that have marked the first seven-year mandate of the president. We had to develop some elements in Rwanda's diplomatic relations with other countries like DRC, France and Spain. We had to recall the international arrest warrants issued by French and Spanish judges. We had to talk about the opponent from the yet-to-be-registered political party etc. Most of the things we had to tackle on are considered by the current Rwandan government to be leeches on its skin.

"This will make a good story but I don't feel I want to be one of the group to be assigned to it," one of the journalists told me. And I said "Why?" I couldn't imagine how he doesn't realize the opportunities in doing something in this big coverage project. But the journalist told me that he would rather adhere to "Singiza Ministry" than not to. The word Singiza in Kinyarwanda means "worship". And in some jokes they make on dependent journalists from state-owned media outlets, they call them "men from singiza ministry"

Back to our heartache editorial meeting, the very journalist was trying to challenge me saying that a good journalist is neither the deceased nor the one in prison. "the very first condition to be a good journalist is to be alive."

I understood him. Some journalists who are very critical to the government have been once in a while imprisoned and one editor from a critical newspaper has been shot dead in his car in front of his house's gate. Again, most of the journalists at Radio Salus are young people, who still pay attention to keep away from life threats. But I personally don't feel that all the things that we should call dangerous to report on are really ones. That's why I think that self censorship is far more dangerous and carrier ruining than a state-established censorship.

Finally the documentary was produced. A very good piece of almost 5 minutes. At the last newscast's presentation, the presenters joined me in my office: "this was a great newscast but I'm afraid we have gone too far," She told me. And I proudly said "We have gone too far in telling the truth we should rejoice for that".

Today I had a day-off, and since the doc was aired I have received the reinforced version of the same compliments from Butare population: "We like Radio Salus, we love our journalists, you are intellectuals, why don't you teach other radio stations to do what you do?" etc, etc. I would instead expect something like "TO HELL RADIO SALUS" but we really don't deserve it.

"Tell the truth, tell it all, tell it now"

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