Rwanda: Role of Media in UPR Process is Crucial - Busingye

Members of the media have been called to take part in the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process, which evaluates human rights situations in countries around the globe.

"The place of mass media in the promotion and protection of human rights in any given society cannot be overemphasised," Johnston Busingye, the Minister of Justice, said Monday during training of journalists on UPR in Nyanza District.

He added: "The media can bring the UPR process to a broader audience beyond the small percentage of people who are already involved or otherwise interested in the process."

The Universal Periodic Review was established in 2006 by UN General Assembly with the aim of improving human rights situations in every country.

It's a peer review mechanism where countries examine one another's human rights situation and make recommendations about improvements.

Rwanda has been reviewed three times, since 2011. In the latest review, which took place in January this year, the country received a total of 284 recommendations, of which 160 were accepted and 49 rejected.

According to Busingye, the 49 recommendations were not supported because they happened to be unrealistic, repeating unfounded allegations, irrelevant or based on wrong information.

Need to engage stakeholders

During the first two cycles of the review, the process did not involve all the stakeholders, such as the media and civil society organizations, among others, said Minister Busingye.

He said the third cycle was different, where different actors contributed to the review process.

The current cycle which will last four to five years started after the latest review.

"In this fourth cycle, we want more of the involvement of the media in all the stages of the UPR reporting process," Busingye said.

Journalists said their involvement in the UPR process will enable them to inform people about human rights.

"Understanding and taking part in the UPR process will make our job easier. We will also help people know the recommendations made to their country, hence enabling them to ask about their rights," Scovia Mutesi, a journalist, said.

For Tom Mulisa, a lecturer of constitutional law at the University of Rwanda, members of the media should exploit the chance given to them in the UPR process.

"Journalists need to understand how the review mechanism works, follow up on the recommendations made to Rwanda and ask responsible institutions about the progress of implementation," Mulisa said.

Of the 284 recommendations made to Rwanda in the latest review, 35 were related to freedom of the media, information and of expression. 14 of those were accepted.

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