By David Himbara
Two months ago, Modeste M from Rwanda challenged my colleagues and me to start a weekly exercise that performs two crucial tasks.
- We should publicly acknowledge and appreciate a Rwandan public figure or institution that has done a good deed in or outside our country.
- We should name and shame a Rwandan public figure or institution that has done a disservice to Rwandans in or outside the country.
Modeste M further further suggested that we should use of humor and irony to appreciate good deeds, while using same tools to criticize mediocrity in public institutions. Modeste M said she has noticed that we Rwandans tend to take ourselves too seriously. Satire and laughter are essential to life , she said. These two characteristics also inspire discussion of important issues that might otherwise be considered taboo.
We have begun to to do what Modeste M challenged us to do. We have chosen our first achiever and the mediocre of the week.
Our first achiever of the week is the New Times
This week, The New Times did what the Rwandan public expects and deserves — namely, accurate objective writing, and the truth. Professional newspaper journalists dedicate their life to investigating and reporting facts no matter what. The New Times did this in its lead story of May 23, 2018, headlined ”MPs visit stalled government projects.” The newspaper reported in part as follows:
”In Kicukiro, a lot of medical equipment are reportedly idle at Masaka hospital, construction of Kigarama market in Gikondo sector has delayed, while Gahanga sector headquarters was poorly built and is crumbling.”
Congratulations to The New Times. Despite the fact that the paper is owned by the ruling party, we see here qualities of courage and integrity. The paper reported incompetence of the very government that controls the paper. The truth was more important than loyalty.
Our first mediocre of the week is KT Press
This newspaper suffers especially from poor content. KT Press simply repackages soundbites of what the government says. The paper’s lead story on May 23, 2018, titled ”Rwanda Confirms Mushikiwabo Is Candidate At ‘Francophonie’ Secretariat” is a good example. The article recycles President Paul Kagame’s remarks with zero value added. KT Press’s preoccupation is to sing praises to Kagame— this paper is far more propagandistic than The New Times which is ironic. It is ironic because KT Press is supposed to be an independent media.
The achiever and the mediocre of the week should both thrive to serve
As is other countries, the purpose of Rwandan journalism should be to serve the public interest. Put in another way, Rwandan journalists ought to put the public interest — and the truth — above their own self-interest or assumptions. Congratulations to the New Times for prioritizing the public interest by exposing misuse of public resources. KT Press should follow the example.