Journalistic freedoms in Rwanda curtailed
Today’s Guardian carries highlights from Anjan Sundaram’s book Bad News: Last Journalists in a Dictatorship. Sundaram taught journalists in Rwanda under the regime of President Paul Kagame, who raised eyebrows last week when he announced he will stand for a third term. If he wins the election, Kagame could be in power until 2034. According to Sundaram, the 2010 presidential election, hailed by European Union officials as the most orderly vote they had ever experienced, was in fact the beginning of the end of a free press in Rwanda. Recalling the election, Sundaram writes: ‘A young Spanish woman…introduced herself to me as a propagandist. Her job was to write up positive stories, in supplements to British newspapers, about governments seeking to improve their image on the world stage or seeking to attract foreign investment. But she had found no business in Rwanda because the foreign press was already so positive.’ It was, according to Sundaram, misplaced praise. ‘The oppression was obvious to those with experience. A Russian UN worker I met three days after he arrived, when asked what he thought of the country, said at once that it reminded him of the Soviet Union. He had noticed the tone of the newspapers.’ Having grown up in a dictatorship himself, in Dubai, Sundaram writes that he too recognized the signs: ‘it was sometimes intangible; one felt it, but it caused a kind of terror; one felt weak’. By the end of the 2010 election, the old guard of news journalists had been killed, imprisoned, exiled or converted to the government cause.
Picture: Rwandan President Paul Kagane, by David Shankbone, via Wikimedia Commons
‘How President Paul Kagame crushed Rwanda’s free press’, The Guardian, 3 January 2016
‘Hopes of independent press in Rwanda fade as head of media body flees’, Committee to Protect Journalists