In a move to further strengthen Rwanda’s national unity and foster harmonious relations among its citizens, the Minister of National Unity and Civic Engagement, Jean Damascene Bizimana, has called upon media outlets within the country to prioritise unity in their reporting.
Speaking at a consultative session organised by the Ministry of Unity and Civic Engagement (MINUBUMWE) on Friday in Kigali, Minister Bizimana emphasised the crucial role a professionally functioning media plays in shaping public perception and promoting social cohesion.
He underscored the significance of disseminating content that promotes cohesion and empowerment, particularly among the youth.
“The youth also suffer from history-based wounds, alongside increasing issues like drug abuse and alcoholism,” Bizimana remarked, emphasizing that 65.3 percent of the Rwandan population comprises individuals below the age of 30.
“These signs indicate that the wounds still impede Rwanda’s rebuilding process, making it challenging for the youth to develop and contribute to their country,” he added.
The call to prioritise unity in media reporting aligns with Rwanda’s longstanding efforts to heal and rebuild following the tragic events of the past. The government has consistently emphasised the importance of unity, reconciliation, and national identity as key pillars of the nation’s development.
According to Bizimana, the government has dedicated the month of October since 2008 to reflect on Rwanda’s unity and reconciliation.
He stressed on the addition of another crucial value – resilience, which stemmed from discussions with young individuals, revealing a lack of understanding about the essence of reconciliation, especially among those born after the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
Bizimana pointed to the progress made in reconciliation, as indicated by the 2020 reconciliation barometer, which stood at an impressive 94.7 percent.
Participants at a consultative sessionon October 20. Emmanuel Ntirenganya
However, he also highlighted the prevalence of history-induced wounds and intergenerational trauma among Rwandan youth, underscoring the necessity of resilience to overcome the enduring effects of the country’s troubled past.
He called for the media to play a critical role in countering those who aim to spread falsehoods and disrupt harmony, particularly through platforms like YouTube. Bizimana emphasised that responsible journalism should expose the truth, guide the nation towards progress, and steer clear of propagating destructive narratives that may hamper the country’s development and social cohesion.
Cleophas Barore, a journalist at Rwanda Broadcasting Agency (RBA) and Chairperson of the Rwanda Media Commission (RMC), emphasised that the media’s contribution to unity and resilience should consider the context of the society it serves. Barore stressed the need for responsible reporting on sensitive issues like the genocide against the Tutsi, emphasising the importance of objectivity and conscientious reporting.
“The media must avoid being a conduit for spreading genocide ideology and hate speech disguised as expressions of democracy and freedom,” he emphasised.
Ignatienne Nyirarukundo, a member of Unity Club-Intwararumuri, echoed the sentiment, emphasising the importance of the media in promoting unity while cautioning against the dissemination of messages that incite hatred and deny the tragic history of the Genocide against the Tutsi.
Rwanda’s media industry has flourished in recent years, and this latest directive from the Minister of National Unity and Civic Engagement serves as a reminder of the pivotal role journalists play in shaping public discourse.
By responsibly reporting on issues affecting society and promoting messages of unity, the media has an opportunity to contribute to Rwanda’s continued progress and ensure a cohesive and inclusive society for all its citizens.