By Elias Hakizimana.
Rwanda Investigation Bureau (RIB) requested local media practitioners to help them prevent crimes by holding their news articles in line with violence before the body arrests the criminal
The request was made on April 29, 2019 in an extra-ordinary evening meeting that attracted Rwanda media Commission (RMC), RIB, Regal Aid Forum (LAF) and journalists.
The body urged journalists to not publish but inform them about the crime being on the field for them to conduct a deep investigation on the criminal and arrest him/her before the media publish their article, which raised complaints from media practitioners saying the body wants to deprive them their professional rights
Cleophas Barore, Chairman of RMC explained that journalists have to respect the article 18 of Rwanda journalists and Media practitioners’ code of ethics and deontology in line with presumption of innocence to protect the suspect on behalf of the community interests and the rights of media to publish stories.
This article states that a journalist shall observe the principle of presumption of innocence for those suspected of punishable or criminal facts before the verdict from the competent courts and tribunals is announced.
“While handling any legal information, they shall avoid establishing any individuals’ relationship with the suspect, or referring to his or her ethnic group, tribe, religion, sex, family or friends, unless their mention serves public public interest. If the suspects’ pictures or photos are broadcast or published before their guilt is established, the journalist responsible for publishing those pictures has the obligation to follow up the lawsuit and broadcast or publish the verdict from competent courts and tribunals. However, if suspects are less than 18 years, a journalist shall be careful not to broadcast or publish their pictures or photos,” the article states.
Barore said that the partnership with RIB to promote professionalism is for every side’s responsibilities. He also reminded the investigation body that journalists need both skills and financial capacity to be able to conduct investigative stories in line with sustaining the partnership.
“You have expertise in investigating crimes, we think it can also be vital to train journalists to have such a knowledge so that they conduct good investigated articles. This can be helpful to boost our partnership in preventing crimes,” Barore said.
He further said that journalists in their daily activities strive to prevent crimes using their professionalism.
Emmanuel Mugisha, Executive Secretary of RMC said that both media and RIB should work by respecting their laws and the laws of the country in general.
“Engaging the media to serve in crime prevention especially organised crimes and corruption is vital but again provide some level of protection to journalists because it is a sensitive area that most cases requires some special protection, skills and knowledge so that they can effectively deliver on this mandate for the interest of the public,” Mugisha noted.
Col. Jeannot Ruhunga, senior executive of RIB said that the role of media in crime prevention cannot be ignored. “Media has played a vital role in preventing crimes and we know that without media RIB cannot accomplish well its responsibilities,” Ruhunga noted.
However, he said that when the media is acting out of professionalism other problems can happen, giving the example of the media of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi.
Dr. Rugira, a researcher who attended the meeting with RIB and RMC and journalists said that this partnership can be boosted so that they help one side helps another. “Media and Investigation body meet on the same field but work differently, they can work together for public interest,” Rugira said.
Since its inception one year ago after taking over responsibilities of the former Criminal Investigation Department (CID), RIB has recorded around 39,000 crimes countrywide until March 2019. RIB said the rationale behind partnership with media is that they have noticed some of these crimes after being reported by different media outlets.
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