Rwanda gov’t pushes to filter internet journalism

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By Robert Mugabe

Kigali-The Information Communication and Technology [ICT] bill and Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Agency [RURA] bill now before Parliament will both filter websites, if the lawmakers pass them. This will go against the spirit of the government to deregulate media.

Last year, Rwanda government announced a surprising decision to deregulate the media and this was followed by scraping off the Information ministry, then clipping some of the powers off the Media High Council.

However, this so called surprise move has started revealing that the government is retracting from the same elements of media deregulation.

Motivated by Vision 2020 and the ambitious plan of being a regional ICT hub, Rwanda media is rapidly shifting from print to On-line media and also social media has attracted the majority of Rwandans mainly the youth and the President himself alike.

Fed-up with criticism, President Paul Kagame had then ordered the minister in charge to let the media take up the responsibilities of regulating itself. However, Media self regulation, has turned to be “Press self regulation” for reasons only known by them.

Latter alone, the principal of self regulation does not accommodate the broadcast and internet which ICT bill and RURA bill place it under the Rwanda Utility Regulatory Agency (RURA) without specifying how it will be done.

RURA has been always regulating the broadcasting media in terms of frequencies and other technical aspects. Now, the new responsibility of regulating content is knocking on her door.

In fact to understand it well, let’s talk about the On-line publications that are vibrant and quickly growing in the country; Websites, news wires, blogs are grouped under the category of broadcast according to the media High council boss Patrice Mulama.

What does that mean? The controversial on-line publications will one day sleep and wake up closed by RURA. Rwanda Human rights commissioner, Lawyer Laurent Nkongoli told Great Lakes Voice that he doesn’t believe in categorizing internet publications as broadcast.

“I would prefer the state leaving alone the on-line media, since nobody knows exactly where this revolution will be ending. If the state believes that internet journalism should be regulated, then there should be a special organization to do that” Nkongoli said.

In the footsteps of China, Rwanda will be another country to filter internet. Experts believe that the idea to filter internet is influenced by China.

Some websites have been blocked in the country, only viewed outside Rwanda or though proxy cites.

As the parliament debates the RURA bill and ICT bill, the reform team is working hard to have the internet filtering being legible.

Speaking to Great Lakes Voice, Marcel Museminari, the Publishing Director of Business Daily newspaper said that he doesn’t believe in regulating on-line media.

“The state should not regulate on-line media, but crimes committed on-line should be punished by the law on individual basis like paedophilia, pornographic and hate speech.

RURA has no legitimacy to close down any website for the article published, it’s only the court.  By the-way, RURA shouldn’t even think of regulating internet” Museminari added.

Ghanaian Professor. Nkwame Karikari, said that in his country Ghana, they can’t regulate on-line media, simply because he feels it’s not going to help any thing and it’s unethical.

He told Great Lakes Voice that,” If you need to regulate on-line media should be for the purposes of preventing and protecting children from pornography” Kwame said.

Rwanda is said to the 3rd in Africa with high internet connection. However, the fiber optic cables laid which are not yet well utilized are expected to be stable by apparently next year.





This post has already been read 22290 times!



  1. Camille

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  2. editor

    October 21, 2011 at 7:34 PM

    Thank you Camille.

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