13 August 2012

Rwanda: Local Summit Pushes for Media Support


Kigali Rwanda — Delegates attending the Fifth EAC media summit in Kigali have been challenged to take advantage of the EAC Common Market to expand their operations to the region.

Over 100 Media investors and Directors from the five partner states were told to widen their content to include pertinent issues concerning the EAC integration process to increase its visibility among East Africans.

The East African integration process is still a vague story to most East Africans, based on scanty information provided by journalists in the media who could equally be barely well versed by what they report.

Yet the solution still lies with the media and at the fifth EAC media summit held in Kigali last week, delegates called on the EAC secretariat to improve the environment for media enterprise and freedom in order to empower them to play their role of widening awareness and understanding of the integration process.

President Paul Kagame, who opened the summit, observed that though the role of the media in the integration process is indispensable, capacity inadequacies of the regional media have resulted into the Western media hijacking the role of telling the East African story.

"We therefore have a need to empower our own media that can tell our own story," said Kagame who emphasised that the media and EAC partner states can be complementing partners without necessarily compromising the efficiency of the other.

According to Monique Mukaruliza, Rwanda's Minister for East African Affairs, whereas the EAC integration is supposed to be people centered through involving citizens to regional activity and opportunities, it has not been achieved to desired levels partly because of less participation by the media.

Ambassador Richard Sezibera, the Secretary General of the EAC noted that in the world of the media ruled by tight deadlines {and fast moving news) there's a risk that the media might ignore vital issues such as the common market opportunities and benefits, issues that are make the integration idea relevant to ordinary citizens.

Though presenters of country media profiles indicated fast growing industries of both radio, TV and press media, these have not moved along with the common market talk to cross borders and cover regional issues.

As a result, the visibility of the EAC across member states remain blurred with most people hardly aware of available opportunities and where.

According to Mr. Andrew Mwenda, a media investor and practitioner, the fast growing new media such as twitter, face book and others have changed the landscape and power of traditional media such as Newspapers.

The summit recommended that for free movement of media enterprise and freedom, member states need to urgently work towards harmonizing the relevant laws to remove current impediments to journalists and investors to expand and operate in partner states.

It was noted that though member states have signed various protocols attesting their commitment to regional media development, they not moved at the same pace to remove barriers.

For example, work permits, varying media regulatory policies, unfriendly investment policy requirements as well as general apprehension in partner states has continued to discourage national media outlets from going regional.

Mr. Francis Babu, Uganda's head of the broadcasters' association lambasted the EAC secretariat for stifling private media development through the continued preference to advertise with public media in member countries.

There tended to be a confusion of whether the aim of the summit was to narture national media into going regional or just media houses to increase coverage of regional issues.

Though the theme, "Media on the Move: Harnessing the EAC common Market for media enterprise and freedom" suggests the former, the current need is actually points to the later.

The EAC wants the media to accord integration issues more coverage and the summit was a perfect way to make the appeal.

However, getting the media interested in the story was the center of the bargain. For starters, participants observed that improved coverage of EAC matters calls for the secretariat to get closer to the media through officials being readily available with information on queries.

It also calls for capacity building issues as it emerged that some journalists might actually be green on most EAC projects. While most media owners present in the Kigali summit expressed readiness to cover EAC, their entities are business minded and there should be something it to make a win-win situation for both the media and EAC.

"If we can get a piece of the EAC advertising budget, we can obviously work with them, this is a business not church work," said one Magazine editor.

As it's is, the EAC can achieve deeper coverage in its public awareness campaign even without media houses opening branches out of their countries as that might not be in their interest.

"Therefore, the vital point is getting media interested in the EAC story, the story worthiness itself without other commercial incentives might not get the media to give their much limited space," observed a Burundian TV journalist.

As Dr. Sezibera noted that EAC issues have to compete with sensational and other exciting news that get public attention, there must therefore be a way of making EAC affairs more exciting.

On the second day of the summit, President Kagame graced Media owners from the region an hour of interaction in which they raised issues that are hindering them from expanding to the region, chief among which were country regulations and red tape that discourage not investment but also willing journalists to practice in certain member states.

The two day summit also saw the EAC secretariat awarding some journalists who have reportedly dedicated their time to covering EAC affairs.

Last Updated ( Monday, 13 August 2012 08:44 )

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