Friday, 10 August 2012

Tell the African story, Kagame urges East African media

We all know that the media plays a critical role in shaping national, regional and global politics,  economics  and  diplomacy.  Equally  important  is  the  continued  political  and economic integration of  the East African Community member states in our increasingly globalised environment. It is therefore essential that we accelerate implementation of the Common Market and other protocols, and more importantly, ensure East African citizens understand and fully participate in the process.

In this endeavour, the media will be an invaluable partner in communicating our agenda, advancing  our  interests  and  being  among  the  key  narrators  of  our  story.  In  addition,  by holding both our governments and citizens to account, a responsible media will promote our core values,  good  governance and democracy on which a successful integration can best be built.
The Rwanda President Paul Kagame. Photo Courtesy  https://twitter.com/jumuiya 

I  am  pleased  to  join  you  today,  and  to  our  visitors,  let  me  welcome  you  all  to  Rwanda and, on behalf of all Rwandans: Karibuni. Nyote mko nyumbani.

The  fact  that  this  summit  has  been  jointly  organised  by  the  East  African  Community Secretariat  and  the  East  African  Business  Council, with  the  participation  of  the  media, reaffirms  our  belief  in  a  private  sector-led  and  people-centred  integration  process.  This high level participation is testimony to the importance attached to the role of the media in   advancing  the  visibility  of  the  East  African  Community  and  a  better  understanding  of regional integration issues.  

We all know that the media plays a critical role in shaping national, regional and global politics,  economics  and  diplomacy.  Equally  important  is  the  continued  political  and economic integration of  the East African Community member states in our increasingly globalised environment. It is therefore essential that we accelerate implementation of the Common Market and other protocols, and more importantly, ensure East African citizens understand and fully participate in the process.

In this endeavour, the media will be an invaluable partner in communicating our agenda, advancing  our  interests  and  being  among  the  key  narrators  of  our  story.  In  addition,  by holding both our governments and citizens to account, a responsible media will promote our core values,  good  governance and democracy on which a successful integration can best be built.

In  order  to  do  this  effectively,  we  should  develop a  critical,  competitive  and  profitable home-grown  media  that  will  foster  debate  of  relevant  issues  and  influence  the  way  the rest of the world sees and understands us.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen;

Let me make two points about the media in East Africa that, in my view, should facilitate the telling of our story and advance integration.

First, governments and the media need not be adversaries as is sometimes the case. Nor should  it  be  the  norm.  They can be partners without  either  compromising  the independence and effectiveness of the other.

Second, together with banking and education, the media, especially broadcast, has taken advantage of the integration process to spread into the region and report on matters East African.

However, it has not gone far or deep enough. More still needs to be done. For far too long the  international  media,  with  its  own  objectives,  has  dominated  the  region  and  set  the news agenda. 

This often means that they tell our story from their perspective at best and, at worst, distort  it  all  together.  As  has  become  all  too  evident  in  our  region,  such misrepresentation  derails  our  progress  or  even  fuels  conflict  and  other  problems  that destroy our gains.

This  is  made  worse  when  our  own  media  either  remain  silent  or  just  relay  the  same stories  told  from  a  biased  standpoint,  becoming   complicit  in  perpetuating  these  views imposed from outside. 
There are interesting and relevant stories in our region that do not get the coverage they should.  These  include  the  steady  progress  the  East African  Community  has  made  in  various  areas  –  from  Customs  Union  to  the  Common  Market,  free  movement  of  people and  capital  to  ongoing  talks  about  monetary  union  and  movement  towards  political federation.

When  we  build  stronger  professional  and  business  partnerships  with  the  media,  there should  be  an  improvement  in  accurate  and  positive  reporting  about  what  East  Africans are doing to make integration move even faster than it is doing. 

Ladies and Gentlemen;

In  order  to  nurture  a  pan  East  African  media,  all  partners  –  be  they  government  or  the private  sector  -  have  the  responsibility  to  invest in  it  and  raise  professional  and  ethical standards.   For  the  media  to  tell  our  story  well,  it  has  to  have  access  to  the  right information and the freedom to disseminate it. This in turn helps it articulate, guarantee and advance other freedoms.

In  Rwanda,  in  spite  of  what  outsiders  might  say,  we  regard  the  media  as  an  important partner in our country’s development. That is why we have made reform of the media a priority.  Among  the  key  reforms  are  self-regulation  and  access  to  information,  both  of which should benefit the industry and also raise responsibility among practitioners.

We need common reforms across East Africa so as to establish norms and standards for the media to enable it carry out its responsibilities effectively. It is, therefore, gratifying to note that all our Partner States have continued to create a conducive environment for the media to operate, which should lead to an increase in the number of media outlets and better reporting in the region. 

The  era  of  fast-evolving  social  media  that  we  live in  presents  us  with  immense opportunities  for  far-reaching  instant  communication  and  immediate  feedback.   Social media  provides  a  new  front  that  gives  East  African citizens  a  voice  and  challenges  the influence  of  traditional  media  dominated  by  a  few  voices.  It is  an  important  tool  for citizens to hold all of us, including conventional media, accountable. 

In conclusion let me reiterate that the media has both the power and responsibility to get the region to embrace regional integration with passion, dedication and commitment for the  benefit  of  the  present  and  future  generations  of  East  Africans.  And because  no  one else will do it for us, they have the duty to help tell the true story of our region, including our collective desire for peace, security, stability and development. 

With  these  remarks,  I  thank  you  all  for  your  attention  and  wish  the  Fifth  East  African Media Summit great success.

Keynote Address By H.E. Paul Kagame, President Of The Republic Of Rwanda, 5th EAC-EABC Media Summit Kigali Serena Hotel, 9 Th  August 2012 

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