News consumers in Rwanda are not getting value for their money, a report produced by the Rwandan Media Commission (RMC) says.
The Rwandan media regulator says that a large number of local outlets fall short of objective and comprehensive reporting, thus denying their readers “the right to have multiple sides of the story presented.”
In a report presenting an ‘Assessment of the Quality of Online Media Content in Covering the 2017 Presidential Elections’, RMC discovered that 70% of online news content was “single sourced”.
This, the report concluded, implies that “there was no effort from reporters to vary information presented.”
While presenting the report to online publishers on Wednesday September 13, 2017, Emmy Arsonval Maniraho, who was the lead researcher, said that instead of presenting a well presented article, journalist largely covered events and gave half-baked content. “It was treacherous,” he said.
RMC Executive Secretary, Emanuel Mugisha commented on the report. He said that, the report was not bad as a whole, but “there is a need to improve.”
According to the report, 10 Kinyarwanda outlets were sampled.
A total number of 60 online news articles were analysed during the sampling period. They largely lacked in-depth coverage where news stories outweighed featured articles by a range of 88.3% compared to 11.7% of the features covering the August, 4th Presidential election.
Overall, the assessment says, 60 articles from 10 online media outlets, 40% were critically not documented, although 50% of them were well documented and 10% were less documented.
“This implies that there is a long journey to go in order to ensure that all published articles are well documented in order to disseminate useful information to the wider audience,” Maniraho said.
As for RMC’s Mugisha, indeed “without professional touch , the art of gathering and distribution of news can be done by anyone.”
This report supports an earlier survey dubbed “Media and policymaking in Rwanda” conducted last year which found that only 4.2% of stories published by newspapers and broadcast by radio and TV stations carried views from citizens.
The report commissioned by Pax Press, a local network of journalists, found out that, 71.2% of all stories are sourced from government officials mainly from workshops, news conferences and official meetings.
But Mugisha suggested that this may as well call for training in data journalism to better improve on this gap identified.
Meanwhile, there was another interesting finding.
According to RMC, sourcing by gender is of paramount importance in order to present both male and female as sources of information.
And that, women and men should both be consulted while covering articles in order to touch all sides of the society.
Both men and women should be given at least equal chance to air out their ideas regarding social, economic and political arenas, it says.
However, “The results indicate that only 31.7% of the 60 sampled articles tried to present both genders in their reporting.”
Men were dominant because they occupied 65% of consultation as sources of information while female were given only 3.3%.
“Media outlets need to give a chance to women to present their views in affairs of their community and society as whole,” the report concluded.
Maniraho said that, scribes have an obligation to give women room to express their views in oder to uphold this critical value in the Rwandan society.
According to Mugisha, “The report is sort of mirror to reflect on how the media is performing.”
“By choosing the recent event of the presidential election we wanted to measure how media perform in terms of covering the election using indicators,” he said, but subtly contradicted himself saying, “To the best of our findings, we found out that media performed beyond average.”
However, the good news is that, the report found out that 90% of the story headlines were not sensational, which implies that during the presidential election, reporters strived to abide by the values of reporting by using actual and defined facts, headlines and angles that stuck to the reality and not to imaginations to attract readers.
Nevertheless, the report was also criticised for not assessing outlets that report in English such as Taarifa, The New Times and The East African.
In defense, RMC said the choice of sampling Kinyarwanda outlets was based on the fact that they have a wider audience than those that publish in English. But the explanation did not seem to hold enough water.
Meanwhile, another report also published last year looking into media development, produced every two years, found out that the industry has grown by 69.6% up from 60.7% in the last report published in 2013.
The research, the second of its kind, sought to analyse media development and determine the impact of recent media reforms.
Some slides from the report
Journalists being presented the report.