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Africa

Rwanda: Media Dialogue in the Great Lakes region

'Paid-for' journalism and fractious husbands were just two of the controversial issues discussed by journalists from three African countries at a recent media dialogue in Kigali.

DW Akademie's Media Dialogue in the Great Lakes region (photo: DW Akademie/Julia Elvers-Guyot).

Looking from different perspectives

Is it ethical for journalists to accept money for 'travel expenses' to a press conference, even though their media company can't cover the fare? How tempting is it for journalists to rush from one event to another, knowing they'll receive an envelope at each one? And if this is the case, how do they find the time to do background research?

These are controversial questions in the Great Lakes region at the heart of Africa, where many media companies face ongoing financial difficulties.

Twelve journalists from Rwanda, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo discussed the temptations of 'paid-for' journalism at a media dialogue held in October 2015 in the Rwandan capital, Kigali. DW Akademie had invited the journalists to the one-week event on behalf of Germany's Federal Foreign Office.

During the media dialogue, Apollinaire Mupiganyi from Transparency International Rwanda presented the results of a new corruption survey of Rwanda's media sector. The study, which was funded by the German development agency, GIZ, attracted great attention in Rwanda when it was published in September.

DW Akademie's Media Dialogue in the Great Lakes region (photo: DW Akademie/Julia Elvers-Guyot).

Discussing prejudices and similarities: Rwanda, DR Congo and Burundi

The results also provoked heated discussions among the media dialogue participants. The chairman of Rwanda's Media High Council, Peacemaker Mbungiramihigo, said media companies need to do more to ensure their financial sustainability.

Journalists would be less susceptible to corruption if companies offered them better salaries, he said. The role of women and their portrayal in the media was another focus of the dialogue. In a presentation, Agathonique Barakukuza from the regional association for women journalists (Réseau des Femmes des Médias des Grands Lacs) said women in the Great Lakes region were underrepresented in the media sector.

In addition, the portrayal of women in the media left much to be desired, she said, with females mainly being presented as victims and few reports about successful women. Barakukuza called for more women's programs. Some of the female participants at the dialogue, however, maintained that such programs were not enough. Husbands, they said, were often the reason why women lacked support, and why comparatively few women worked in the media sector.

The participants from the three African countries also examined the prejudices that they held about each other. Amid much laughter, it was also clear that some explosive issues lay behind the prejudices. The discussion, however, motivated the journalists to start producing more differentiated reports about their neighboring countries: by doing this, they could help raise the public's general awareness of conflict-sensitive issues.

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