Early yesterday morning, the Rwandan Lower Chamber of Parliament passed the Media Bill in the presence of the dubiously titled Information Minister. According to Rwandan journalist Robert Mugabe, one of the amendments of the bill:
States that when a journalist in the print media commits a mistake, the chief editor should be summoned and not the journalist; in the electronic media a journalist is the first person to be summoned.
In this seemingly bizarre procedural quirk, ‘summoning’ might have a charming 12th century King Arthur like connotation. Although it probably shouldn’t. Freedom of press in Rwanda isn’t so hot. In 2007 Reporters Without Borders bluntly labeled President Paul Kagame:
One of the world’s “Predators of Press Freedom”. The government attacks any journalist, foreign or local, who puts out news it does not like, or which violates the taboos of the society built by the Rwandan Patriotic Front (FPR), which came to power after overthrowing the genocidal Hutu regime and ending its massacres….
With the suspension of Radio BBC in Rwanda and calls from human rights organizations to increase press freedom, this new Media Bill seems like another step in a dangerous direction where ‘summoning’ loses all its charm.