The New Times (Kigali)

28 November 2012

Africa: Politicians Must Open Up to African Media - Mushikiwabo

The African continent should not be a place where journalists are muzzled and mistreated but rather a place where they exercise their rights freely, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Louise Mushikiwabo told African media experts yesterday.

She was speaking at the African Editors Annual General Meeting that concluded yesterday in Kigali.

Mushikiwabo together with Collins Chabane, the Minster in the Presidency of South Africa, were part of a political panel that discussed the role of governments in fostering media development on the continent.

According to the minister, African politicians often give more priority to calls from western media than their local press houses- a situation that continues to undermine the production of credible news stories by African news agencies.

"In many instances whenever African politicians get calls for interviews from foreign and local media, they are always tempted to first give priority to foreign media. This attitude must change in order to foster good African reporting," said Mushikiwabo, who is also the Government Spokesperson.

"The government and media are not enemies but rather partners to development, and speaking on behalf of the Rwanda government, we have always provided the information required by journalists and are always open to them. This way, we support and expect accurate reporting, not just on good stories but on all affairs of our society."

South Africa's Chabane told the gathering that unless African governments provide information required by the local media, they should not complain when media reports they deem nonfactual come out.

"Let us be clear on this one; the media does not manufacture stories. They report using the information at their disposal and unless we at political level make things easier for them, we should not expect them to report something different from what they know," Chabane said.

"Just us much as we want positive stories, we should start thinking in terms of how to work with journalists, who are well versed with identifying areas and countries with problems."

The Editors Annual General Meeting later held elections, where Faith Mbabazi, Acting Director of Radio Rwanda, was elected as East Africa's representative to the body and as the Deputy Chair.

Cheriff Sy, from Burkina Faso, who served as the body's Chairman was re-elected in that post and will also double as the representative of West Africa.

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