Rwanda: media professionals celebrate World Day for Cultural Diversity

UNESCO organized a media workshop held on 21 and 22 May 2018 in Kigali to reinforce the role of media in promoting the diversity of cultural expressions in Rwanda.

The two-day workshop, which is funded by the Government of Sweden in support of the UNESCO 2005 Convention for the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions, has brought together 25 media practitioners from across the country to reflect on the role of media in covering the national culture policy and promoting media diversity and cultural pluralism in Rwanda. Participants ranged from community radio representatives to newspaper journalists and web editors as well as television reporters.

The workshop was opened on 21 May 2018 with welcoming remarks from Mr. Jerome Kajuga, the Director of Culture, Social and Human Sciences at the Rwanda National Commission for UNESCO, who highlighted the wide range of stakeholders involved in promoting cultural diversity in Rwanda, including various ministries, media, civil society, and cultural practitioners.

The participants were asked to reflect on the role of culture in Rwanda and how it can be used for national identity, social cohesion, intercultural dialogue and sustainable development. They learned about complementary definitions of culture as reflected in UNESCO normative instruments dating back to 1954, and identified their own definitions and meanings in relation to Rwandan culture.

The training involved capacity building in covering culture policies and legislation, the mobility of artists, integrating culture into sustainable development frameworks, and promoting human rights and fundamental freedoms, which are the four main goals of the UNESCO 2005 Convention. The media participated in a “Tweetathon” using #supportcreativity to practice writing about cultural diversity in Rwanda. Participants found that the #SupportCreativity Workshop on #UNESCO2005Convention for the local media in #Kigali was insightful, and generated increased interest from newsmen and women in Rwanda.

Participants also considered the role of media in promoting gender equality and the impact of the Digital Revolution on media in Rwanda. UNESCO organized a roundtable discussion for the participants with Ms. Solange Ayonone from Pax Press and Ms. Regina Akalikumutima, Women in Media Platform in order to debate these issues. Ms. Ayonone pointed out the benefit of digital media platforms allowing news to be “…more participatory where citizens are reporting alongside us of current events.” Ms. Akalikumutima highlighted the negative side of social media in the age of “fake news” and the important role of journalists to put the information in news reports into context with thorough investigative reporting. The moderator, Mr. Jaco du Toit, UNESCO Regional Advisor for Communication and Information, reiterated the danger of single source information and questioned how media in Rwanda can prevent “massification of one news”, and have alternative news that resonates with audiences. Participants also debated the need to adapt to new technologies and expand reporting beyond Kigali.

Following the debate, the media participants listened to a short presentation on the UNESCO 2018 Global Report: 2018 Global Report "Re|Shaping Cultural Policies", which included best practices and outcomes from Rwanda's Quadrennial Periodic Report on implementation of the 2005 Convention and the effectiveness of the Culture Policy in Rwanda.

Mr. Nathan Ntwari, Director of Media Content, Research and Development at the Rwandan Media High Commission gave the closing remarks at the end of the first day of training, which was followed by a culture reception organized by Iyugi Ltd. with performances by visual artists Tabaro Poupoutte and Manzi Jackson, music by Hill-stone founded by Twahirwa Herve.

During his remarks, Mr. Ntwari highlighted the importance of promoting local culture content and the need to promote both traditional and contemporary Rwandan culture. He praised the strong participation among young media practitioners and encouraged them to use their diverse media platforms to showcase the diversity of culture in Rwanda.

The media participants continued with the training on 22 May, which included presentations and practical exercises on investigative journalism covering culture, the role of arts and cultural coverage in media and the rights and responsibilities of journalists in the media. The participants also reviewed various sources for reporting on cultural industries in the media.

This workshop was the first time UNESCO combined a technical training of media professionals in Rwanda linked with the theme of creativity and cultural diversity. Participants in the workshop noted that the training enabled them to better understand their roles and responsibilities in promoting cultural diversity in Rwanda as well as the contribution of culture to achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals.