Media issues in Rwanda are no longer to do with “access to information” but rather “how to make money and build capacity of journalists.”
This was the key message that media practitioners and investors echoed during a media breakfast organised last week at Kigali Serena Hotel.
Speakers noted that the main reason behind the sloppy growth of media sector in the country is lack of financial capacity by media players to invest and grow.
The head of Media Investors Forum Charles Kakooza, said that although great strides have been made in the media sector, more needs to be done to make it more professional and economically powerful.
Recounting how he started TV1, under harsh circumstances – only to break even a year-plus later – Kakooza said that, without economic sustainability in Rwanda’s media, the sector won’t be able to thrive and practitioners won’t grow professionally. “The media sector needs a financial boost. Setting up the media fund is one way we can kick poverty out of the media sector. It is important that development partners and government help in establishing this fund to spur the growth of the sector,” Kakooza said.
Kakooza also believes that media development can’t be achieved without cooperation from both public and private sector.
Several development partners and government officials, who spoke to The New Times at the media breakfast, shared similar sentiments; they believe that weak financial capacity has cost the media profession in the country, hence making its contribution to the national development relatively less.
The forum in Kigali that brought together development partners and media personnel was organised by Rwanda Governance Board.
“I think the quality of media in general can be improved,” said Mikael Bostrom, Counsellor and head of Development cooperation at the Embassy of Sweden.
Bostrom added that media development in general needs sustainable financing and that media sector must to find a way to self-financing to grow independently.
According to the Rwanda Media Barometer 2016, media sector grew by only 8.9 per cent in the last three years.
Prof. Anastase Shyaka, the Chief Executive Officer of RGB said that having a media fund will solve numerous issues in the sector and will certainly enable a vibrant media sector that is free, professional, responsible, and profitable.
Cleophas Barore, the Acting Chairperson of Rwanda Media Commission (RMC)—a media self-regulatory body—said that the fund would enable journalists and media investors to access finances for investment and other endeavours at little interest .
Lamin M. Manneh, the UN Resident Coordinator, however, acknowledged that the introduction of media reforms and the constitution of the media laws have been vital in transforming the sector.