Kigali city streets are so secure, clean and enjoyable and very attractive that one easily gets tempted to grab a selfie and keep that sweet memory or share it with friends on social media.
Meanwhile, retiring home every evening and switching on the TV set, expectations are high with desire for local news to keep informed. But what does it take for journalists to bring this entire news package (videos, photos and witness accounts) to that TV screen.
Taarifa spoke to a dozen journalists and their experiences in line of duty are quite intriguing and unbelievable.
Nadia uwamariya has been practicing journalism for 8 years – according to her, local journalists have a bad image within society.
“I was at hospital unexpectedly, I saw troubled patients, as journalist I took my phone to take pictures and one of guardians came and ordered me to stop taking pictures, and I told him that I’m journalist, they came all over and wanted to take my phone but I refused to surrender it. I told them that only the police could resolve that and eventually the situation was ended,” Said Uwamaliya.
Elizee Mpirwa a print journalist observed that problems depend on the awareness of the importance of journalism and its rules.
“I was taking pictures in Kigali city Centre and a police man hurriedly came over and told me to give him my camera and I refused till his leader came and sorted the situation,” said Mpirwa.
He believes that police officers are knowledgeable about journalism and its rules but many local leaders are not aware.
Another Journalist Ntakirutimana Alfred assembled at a site of a demolished house in Kigali. He began taking a video of the incidence as local authorities we supervising the demolition.
In the process, a Policeman walked closer to Ntakirutimana and instructed him to surrender the video camera and all other equipment.
“I explained to the policeman that I’m journalist. I thought the problem was that I’m including him in the video I changed the angle and took another shot but he came back to me with another police officer and they took my camera,” Ntakirutimana narrated to Taarifa.
Ntakirutimana has also encountered local authorities who deny journalists access to public events and sometimes instruct journalists on which photos to take and how to report their stories.
Christophe Barore, the provisional President of Rwanda Media Commission (RMC) counsels the public to be flexible towards journalists and to believe them because they work for the common interest of Rwandan society.
He also said there are people who only give information to only particular journalists that they know and refuse to give it to others.
“For the good of Rwandan society we also report on both right and what goes wrong. The public gets both views to help them understand and make informed decisions,” Barore said in a conversation with Taarifa.
He also cautions Journalists to work as professionals so that the public will trust them and collaborate more with them.
According to Rwanda Media Commission’s numbers of cases received in 2017 year there were 275 cases 163 them were people who sued journalists, 11 of them were journalists who sued people and then 60 journalists who sued themselves.
Most local journalists have experienced a situation where they have been denied access to information.
On the side of security organs there are sessions conducted including; “police and media, media and police interaction sessions” – these aim at helping both sides to relate together professionally with the common understanding on laws.
“We don’t need blame games but laws are set to know who is wrong and who is right. Both sides know their rights and limitations. Police knows journalists have special access to some restricted areas,” says CP Theos Badege the Spokesperson for Rwanda National Police.
Badege says that in case of misunderstanding there are ways to resolve it on both sides. Currently, the relationship between media and National security organs is good as they continue to mobilize both sides through those sessions.
“Our country is open to media, if someone wants to take pictures as foreigners do, it’s their right. It can be a journalist from CNN as well as from one of Rwandan Media houses”
“There restricted areas for instance you can’t take pictures of our gate without permission but if you are on the street and there are police agents you can take pictures there is no mistake as our country is secured,” assured Badege.