Tell our story, Kagame urges East African media
Governments and the media should not be adversaries but rather partners without either compromising the independence and effectiveness of the other, President Paul Kagame has said.
He was addressing the Fifth East African Community (EAC) Media Summit in Kigali yesterday.
The President called on East African journalists to play a critical role in the EAC integration agenda and to promote the collective interests of the East Africans. He urged them to desist from biased reporting, something he said often characterises the western media’s coverage of Africa.
“The media have both the power and responsibility to get the region to embrace regional integration with passion. And because no one else will do it for us, they have the duty to tell the true story of our region and promote our collective desire for peace, security and development”.
“When governments build stronger professional and business partnerships with the media, there will be stronger, faster and more factual reporting in our region. In order to nurture a Pan-East African media, the government and private sector have the responsibility to invest in our local media and help raise their professional and ethical standards,” he added.
The President stated that although the media have taken advantage of the integration process to report about East Africa, it hasn’t gone far or “deep enough” to provide a platform for citizens in the region to understand the core issues.
Kagame faulted the regional media for “remaining silent” in the wake of negative publicity espoused by the western media about the region and Africa in general.
“For far too long international media have had their own objectives and interests and have dominated the news agenda about East Africa. This often means that they tell our story from their perspective at best, and at worst, distort it all together. As has become all too evident, such misrepresentation derails our development and fuels conflict that destroys our gains,” Kagame said.
“This is made worse when our own media remains silent or just relays the same biased stories, thus becoming accomplices with those views from outside. Therefore for the media to tell our story well, they must have access to information to disseminate it to the public as important partners in being the key narrators of our story”.
EAC Secretary General, Dr Richard Sezibera, warned that by ignoring key issues, the regional media fraternity posed a “real danger” to the integration process.
“In a fast moving world with tight deadlines and shortened attention spans, there is a real danger that important issues like the (EAC) Common Market are given short thrifts in favour of the fads of the day. Even in East Africa, there is a danger that these factors may foster a drift towards sensationalism and trivialising issues,” Sezibera said.
“It seems to me that media practitioners will have to play the role of interpreters of information, helping audiences make sense of whatever it is they are exposed to and being the vanguards of honest and critical analysis of events”.
On day one, participants at the two-day summit explored possibilities for free movement of media services across the EAC region, among other issues.
Held under the theme, “Media on the move: Harnessing the EAC Common Market for media Enterprise and Freedom”, the summit was organised by the EAC Secretariat in partnership with the East African Business Council (EABC).
The EAC Common Market came into force on July 1, 2010, a year after the bloc marked ten years after its revival. The Common Market protocol seeks to promote free movement of goods, labour, services, and capital across the five member states with a combined 126 million market.
At the moment, negotiations for a single EAC currency are at an advanced stage as the bloc keeps its sights on the ultimate integration stage – political federation – which will place the Community under one Head of State.
Contact email: ivan.mugisha[at]newtimes.co.rw