By Elias Hakizimana.
The COVID-19 pandemic that is hitting the entire globe has come unexpectedly and was quickly spread in many African countries including Rwanda; leaving many lives and economies in danger and claiming countless lives.
So far, the number of people diagnosed with the disease in Rwanda has reached 102, with more than 1,000 in isolation. While a big number of patients died in other countries where the disease has been spread, and fortunately, no one has died in Rwanda, according to the Ministry of Health.
The country has put a lot of effort in dealing with the spread of this extraordinary disease and helping those affected by the effects of the stagnation of many jobs due to the #Stay-at-home program, some of which are benefitting from government’s support including food commodities but so far private media practitioners are struggling to adapt to the current condition under the lockdown period which was increased to 15 days.
These journalists were fed up with the fact that a lot of their work was done non-stop and so they didn’t get enough to support themselves, now they claim their daily survival is uncertain because it is difficult and quite impossible to get in touch with their partners (business communities) which are also affected by the lockdown; and concerned media representatives are not looking for solutions, telling the media to wait for general support given to the citizens at the village level.
The media have a central role to play in improving the human condition globally; they need capacity building and financial support to successfully transform societies.
A report by Impamba.com on Saturday, April 04, 2020, returned to the discrimination of the private media by the Capacity Building entity (Media High Council/ (MHC).
In an interview with Impamba.com, Mr. Peacemaker Mbungiramihigo, Executive Secretary of MHC, said that journalists should also be assisted in their communities because they do not discriminate against any particular category.
Currently, Rwandans still rely on daily updates from the Ministry of Health to know about Covid-19 pandemic news, which is also the main source of information for the media to write and broadcast news to the community, yet, they should be given help with training on publishing health stories in rare cases like the Coronavirus epidemic, safety equipment and financial support to help them and their families survive the aftermath of the epidemic.
In addition to the impact of poverty for journalists working for the private media, it is also difficult to be able to reach the news across the country in this lockdown period midst the disease.
In a reply to Impamba.com when asked if the entity he is representing can help the private media to easily access information and find alternatives to support their families, Mbungiramihigo said that the media houses they work for should try their best in this situation to find support for their employees within their current capacity.
A huge challenge
Mbungiramihigo encouraged various associations and institutions of journalists to do the same as other agencies in raising funds to help journalists: “Because those who put efforts together succeed.” He said.
His response seems to be impossible because often these Institutions and media associations have been required or committed themselves to unite to help each other in the struggle for development, but lack of financial capacity remained a key challenge.
Théoneste Nsengimana, the owner of Umubavu.com, recently published an article on Umubavu TV Online, highlighting the problems of extreme poverty that affects the media he represents.
“Asking for help is not stupidity, we need your help in different ways, don’t think that asking for help is stupidity or insincerity because everyone can ask for help, and even the country asks for it; and this problem has affected everyone.[…..] Nsengimana claimed.
To date, the government and religious organizations are helping Rwandans affected by the Coronavirus with physical support including food commodities, where ADEPR has raised more than 43 million Rwandan Francs to help needy Christians in the City of Kigali. This should set a good example for MHC in helping journalists during the lockdown period.
According to The New Times’s report on April 04, 2020, the Government of Rwanda is going to set up a fund to help the private sector whose businesses were affected by COVID-19 pandemic.
The private media is also considered a private sector today because it is often socially responsible, trying to survive by collaborating with the business community, which also has been affected by the effects of COVID-19.
Private media practitioners call for effective and quick interventions by the government and the institutions that represent them so as they can survive the lockdown.
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