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Is Kagame a 'media predator?'

Discussion in 'International Forum' started by Geza Ulole, May 14, 2010.

  1. Geza Ulole

    Geza Ulole JF-Expert Member

    May 14, 2010
    Joined: Oct 31, 2009
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    Is Kagame a 'media predator?'
    Rwanda President: Is he really against free media? Photo/FILE
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    Posted Thursday, May 13 2010 at 15:14

    On Tuesday morning in Kigali, we had our usual monthly interaction with President Paul Kagame of Rwanda. I would love to call this an interaction because it goes beyond your traditional African presidential press conference where journalists meet the president for an hour, fire him with questions and thereafter leave to write about the exchange in their media outlets.
    In Rwanda the briefing offers an opportunity for the president to share ideas with media practitioners. Also, the journalists are used as a tool for the president to get feedback on certain things happening around the country.
    Tuesday's meeting was the first since President Kagame was branded a "media predator" by the international watchdog group Reporters Without Borders. They claimed he was a leader who liked to censor, imprison, kidnap, torture and, in the worst cases, murder journalists.
    Former guerrilla
    According to the group, Kagame is "a former guerrilla chief and warlord who played a ‘murky' role in his country's recent history." For one whose military wing single-handedly stopped the 1994 genocide without any support from the international community, and thereafter led the country to prosperity and has been recognised by the World Bank as the top business reformer in the region, the president wondered what was ‘murky' about it.
    The report also said that the Rwandan leader does not tolerate embarrassing questions at news conferences and that once in a while, he denigrates journalists and brands outspoken media as ‘Radio Mille Collines', a broadcast station that helped fan the genocide.
    Every year, several Rwandan journalists go into exile. This does not worry President Kagame, who refers to journalists as "mercenaries" and "bums".
    Reporters Without Borders, based its analysis on a recent development where two radical newspapers, Umuseso and Umuvugizi, were proscribed ahead of the August presidential elections. The move was seen as intended to muzzle any criticism of the government in the run-up to the event.
    The genocide
    Umuseso had found itself rubbing the government the wrong way with its style of reporting, which officials branded as "divisionist". Such a tag is lethal in Rwanda, where the officials are quick to draw parallels with haunting images of the genocide.
    Authorities in Kigali are quite careful not to give untrammelled freedom to the media, which was abused in causing ethnic division that brought about the genocide.
    During the Tuesday meeting, a reporter with Kigali's Business Daily, Mr Marcel Museminali, reminded President Kagame how not too long ago, he gave a wide-ranging interview to CNN's Christiane Amanpour and answered all her hard questions.
    "Since we don't want this bad name (of predator) to hang on your neck, we also want to participate in removing this horror," he suggested somewhat tentatively.
    "We want to have a debate on whether President Paul Kagame is the predator or it is others who make him a predator."
    The president, who is set to seek re-election for a second term of seven years, responded to the journalist by saying: "I don't know what you people (in the media) are going to do to improve my image as ‘media predator'."