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Fellowship Strengthening Media Institutions in Support of Media Pluralism In-Country Results from Rwanda

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Rwanda, November 2019 – Media4Democracy completed in August a second, six-month Fellowship programme that provided training and mentoring to leaders of media institutions in Rwanda.  Working closely with the EU Delegation to Rwanda, Media4Democracy supported the selection of five Fellows who spent three weeks at the Danish Union of Journalists (DJ) in Copenhagen in March and April.  While there, the Fellows took part in an intensive course of training, mentoring and meetings with peers and experts, and developed ideas and plans for projects to strengthen pluralistic media in Rwanda. After returning to Rwanda, the Fellows were mentored for an additional four months as they applied their newly gained skills and knowledge to implement their projects.

In September 2019, a Media4Democracy Expert Team spent a week in Rwanda to close the programme and assess its impact. The assessment found that individually and collectively the Fellows have achieved concrete results since their return, introducing changes and new initiatives they will build on in future.  They have also succeeded in strengthening the role of their own organisations to support freedom of expression, access to information and media pluralism in Rwanda.

This report summarises the early impact of the Fellowship programme as a whole and profiles some of the main results achieved by each Fellow.

The assessment found that the Fellowship programme has engendered a strong sense of cooperation and shared interests among the Fellows and between their organisations that represent a significant and influential part of the media institutional sector in Rwanda.

Additionally, it was clear that the Fellows’ colleagues consider the programme to have been successful and beneficial, and the Fellows have taken advantage of opportunities to share the learning and insights gained from the programme within their organisations and with other stakeholders. This has helped generate debates and cross-fertilisation about how best to advance the media sector in Rwanda, and injected new ideas about good practice across the sector, drawing on what the Fellows learned in Denmark.

For example, during a debrief at the Rwanda Broadcasting Association (RBA), the Fellows introduced the idea of an independent Ombudsman, which had been discussed in a meeting at Danish Radio while in Copenhagen.  A member of the senior management team at the Association in Kigali recognised its potential and is now putting forward a plan to introduce the model at RBA as a way to build trust with audiences and deal fairly with audience complaints.

The assessment also demonstrated that the intense training modules in Denmark contributed to strengthening the individual skillsets of the Fellows, particularly increasing their leadership and communication skills. This has dovetailed into the development and implementation of projects that have helped strengthen their own organisations’ roles in promoting media pluralism and independence.

Egidie Ingabire participated in the Fellowship programme in her capacity as board member of the Association of Rwandan Women in Media (ARFEM) as well as her role as a well-known TV presenter. Her fellowship project focused on empowering women to play a more equal role in the media in Rwanda. A high level of gender equality in many areas of public life in Rwanda has not been matched in the media sector, where women rarely reach senior editorial roles.

One of Ingabire’s main achievements was to persuade the national Rwanda Broadcast Association to introduce field reporting guidelines for all reporters to include women as experts and sources of information when conducting interviews. Ingabire also delivered training on gender equality to staff at the Rwanda Broadcast Association and produced a TV programme about gender-based violence, which was broadcast to a nationwide audience, potentially reaching thousands of households.

Oliver Ngabirano is a young news editor of a private TV station, TV1. During the programme, he developed his plan to incubate and strengthen investigative journalism.  In Denmark, Ngabirano met with Danish journalists at the Centre for Investigative Journalism and Danish Radio, and they inspired him to kickstart the Rwanda Investigative Journalism Network, a loose alliance of around 20 journalists from diverse media, who previously had not met on a professional basis. This new network has begun providing support and sharing information about good practices, such as ensuring that news desks have two reporters, so that when one is in the field, the other can provide back-up to any investigation.

TV1’s managing director, Charles Kakoza Nkuriza, reported that he could already see the impact of the Fellowship programme on the improved quality of Ngabirano’s own reporting, which he described as on ‘another level’ since his return.

Gonzaga Muganwa participated in the programme as Director of one of the most important media institutions in Rwanda, the Association of Rwandan Journalists (ARJ), an umbrella organisation for all accredited media professionals working for government and private media.  Muganwa found the leadership skills he gained in Denmark improved his ability to move forward on a core objective he had set: to advocate on behalf of ARJ members for a stronger ethical, legal, policy and educational framework for journalists in Rwanda.

Muganwa notes that, in parallel, the trust and cooperation developed among the Fellows in Denmark has strengthened the cooperation of the Fellows’ organisations with ARJ, improving the quality of advocacy on media in Rwanda.

As part of his effort to strengthen ARJ’s institutional structure, Muganwa has established a new board for ARJ. During the programme in Denmark and on return to Rwanda, Muganwa also took on a lead role in driving the development of a joint funding proposal from all five Fellows’ organisations, submitted to the EU Delegation to Rwanda.

Marie-Louise Uwizeyimama is Vice President of the Rwanda Media Union. Since returning to Rwanda, Uwizeyimama has made significant progress on her project objective: to develop a strategic plan to strengthen and transform her organisation into a fully-fledged union, independent of the general Rwandan trade union that currently houses it.

The President of the Union, Jean-Claude Nsabminana, credited the Fellowship programme as a key factor in providing a ‘wake up call for a sleeping organisation’. The membership has grown by more than 25 per cent since Uwizeyimama’s return, and she has taken the bold step to introduce membership fees. She has also organised the first annual congress, where members discussed strategic priorities, partly based on ideas developed during the Fellowship programme.

Concretely, Uwizeyimama has initiated dialogue between employers and journalists and held meetings with 15 media owners to explain the benefits of the Union. She has successfully raised awareness about journalists’ labour rights, both in dialogue with media owners and members, and publicly through social media campaigns. While all Fellows benefitted from being based at DJ in Copenhagen, there is no doubt that Uwizeyimama gained particular insight and inspiration from the connection, and in particular from the mentoring provided by the President of DJ, Tine Johansen.

Edmund Kagire joined the Fellowship programme in his capacity as a board member of the Rwanda Media Council. Since his return, he has been working to strengthen the implementation of the access to information framework and says he has become ‘the voice of access to information’ in Rwanda.  He has been raising awareness among the key stakeholders – government, media and civil society – of the potential of access to information as a tool for driving transparency and accountability. He has delivered many trainings on the topic, most notably to the Rwanda Media Council and the Rwanda Governance Board – the latter reports directly to the President’s office and is an important actor for introducing change in Rwanda.