Written by: 
Agnes Tumuheire

In short: Despite the fact that Rwanda press freedom is still low, different players have put up strategies to improve of media independence.

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Rwanda community has not yet given up on the fight towards a free media environment inspite of the negative criticism coming from with- in and outside the country.

According to Athan Tashobya, a journalist at the New Times Rwanda, journalists in the country are on a watch to ensure that their work is respected and that they work in a conducive enviroment.

“Journalists in Rwanda have established a self regulatory body, Rwanda Media Commission, not only to ensure press freedoms are respected but also professionalism in the sector (which) has significantly improved the way business is done,” Tashobya said.

Henry Omusundi Maina, Regional Director, ARTICLE 19 Eastern Africa since August 2009,  Rwanda said that, regulatory bodies in the country like Rwanda Broadcasting Authority have helped to ensure protection and safety of journalists especially in the field.

“We have less physical attacks to journalists as compared to Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania,” said Maina.

The scrapping of the law on defamation which had trapped most journalists and hindered many from expressing their opinions has helped Rwanda journalists to get sources easily.

According to Gonza Muganwa, the executive secretary of the Rwanda journalists association, media in Rwanda is moving towards a more free environment.

“The environment for press freedom is improving due to the good relationship between the policymakers and the media,” Muganwa said.

However, there is a need to improve on the financial stand and income generation levels  of media houses in Rwanda to ensure successful implementation of the policies and strategies towards press freedom.

“Rwanda has many small media houses that have diversified income revenue streams that they can easily be manipulated to pander-to political, commercial and state interests through advertisements,” Maina said.

He also added that the financial issue has declined the watchdog role of the media in Rwanda since it requires a great deal of money to dig deeper into stories.

"Given they are small, they lack sufficient resources to invest in Investigative Journalism but do conveyor-belt journalism," Maina added.