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Criticism is ripe. I should call it that. Against Rwanda Media Commission (RMC), the media self-regulatory body, stance about arbitrary state authority suspending BBC Kinyarwanda service and subsequently the visit of US ambassador to RMC offices.
RMC position has come, of course with controversy, since it contravenes dominant opinion, and as well now critics focusing on the mandate of RMC.
Friday, I woke up to an interesting article penned by Rwanda Broadcasting Agency boss, Arthur Asiimwe attacking media regulator thus defending the state’s unilateral decision to suspend Kinyarwanda programming of BBC for the controversial documentary “untold story”, which I believe government used the powers which they had given away to the journalist’s body by means of the famous media reforms.
Wait a second, RMC’s argument is not that BBC did the right thing regarding ‘Untold story’. No. It’s not that BBC deserves any Rwanda journalist’s support regarding their infamous ‘Untold story’. I guess no Rwandan with sober mind, whether or not affected by Genocide against the Tutsi would support this particular BBC behavior. BBC documentary is illegal, unprofessional, unacceptable and intolerable also an attack to Rwandans and status quo.
However, the question of the day would be, if deemed necessary for BBC Kinyarwanda services to be suspended, who would responsible to take a decision legally? Who is to decide whether the decision to suspend any radio is relevant or not? To answer these vital questions, which has been attacking point for some critics of RMC take, let me clarify some issues here regarding Rwanda Utility and Regulatory Agency (RURA) and Rwanda Media Commission (RMC) mandate.
Speaking in a layman’s language, RMC has a triple mandate Promoting, nurturing and protecting ethical journalistic practices, Defending media freedom and; Speaking on behalf of the media fraternity as a whole especially as far as promotion and protection of ethical principles as well as freedom are concerned. RURA’s role to the media is to simply regulate technical part of the media like radio frequencies, TV channels. Both RURA and RMC know it. There’s precedent of two institutions working together. Like the case of Muhthara program at Voice of Africa and religious talk show on Amazing Grace radio, which RURA referred to RMC and was catered for.
The law regulating media in Rwanda N° 02/2013 of 08/02/2013 invites the two parties to the media, as regulators without compromising the trend. I will begin with the articles which gives both RMC and RURA the authority to carry own their respective duties.
|Article 4: Regulation of Media
The daily functioning of media and the conduct of journalists shall be regulated by the Media Self Regulatory Body.
However, the national utilities statutory regulator shall also carry the regulation of audio, audio-visual media and internet.
Organs referred to under Paragraphs One and 2 of this Article shall have a joint working agreement and shall determine their plan of action.
Some laymen in the law, trying to debate about the mandate of these institutions take a half of this article to manipulate facts to legitimize government decision of arbitrary closure of the radio service. That behavior of course calls for a meaning evidently beyond the true one (interpretatio excedens) which is disappointing. You can not base one’s argument on half the Article because you would risk interpretatio predestinate– this interpretation takes place if the interpreter, laboring under a strong bias of mind, makes the text subservient to his preconceived views or desires.
Any lawyer, will tell you that paragraph one of article 4, is the principle while paragraph two is the exception that is why words like “However‘ and “Also” are used. Therefore, an exception can’t override the principle. Please refer this as restrictive interpretation of the law (interpretatio restricto.)
Our government, through the media policy thought it right in their due diligence; to tune to media self-regulation and get away with statutory regulation also legislators passed it into law. Please remember our media policy talk about self regulation and not co-regulation. There are three main regimes of press regulation; we have statutory-meaning the state regulates the press, co-regulation-both state and media regulates the press and self regulation-where media regulates its self. For the matter of record, Rwanda goes by self regulation, and that spirit is well captured in the media law where the definition of the self-regulation body clearly states it’s the defender of public interest.
It’s compulsory to know the difference for every journalist, scholar or just a free thinker if you’re to debate about RMC mandate.
Its simple, RMC regulates media because in Rwanda we go by self-regulation, and then our friends in RURA would come in as an exception to regulate scarce resources according to their initial mandate as recognized by the International Telecommunications Union [ITU].
Hey critics, whoever your names are, the MoU between RMC and RURA is in the context of self regulation. Don’t just take a half of the article of MoU to produce a biased interpretation to feed your ego ( interpretatio predestinata.) As the former chairman of RMC, as a jurist and a journalist, I know and understand all these literatures some of these people talk about since I negotiated the current media law, establishment of RMC and appended to the MoU.
Some critics are attacking the person of the current RMC chairman, Fred Muvunyi, but this is unfair and probably borne out of ignorance. The RMC stand on how such regulatory concerns should be handled was arrived at during the establishment of the body and any other chairman understanding the mandate of the body and the importance of press freedom, would have taken the same stand.
The writer is a journalist.
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