The media have a responsibility not to do anything that would endanger the stability of the nation, writes Oscar Kimanuka in the East African. They should not place undue emphasis on crises, strikes and the like.

Oscar Kimanuka writes in the East African:

Traditional Africa believed that the media (read journalists) are messengers of truth. In history, no journalist has been killed by any traditional African community, as they were regarded as special people who only told the truth and brought home respect and honour for doing so.

This view must have played a part in the organisation of last week's seminar on media and security in Kigali by the Rwanda Centre for Strategic Studies.

The media remains a reflection of society and political, social, and cultural leaders ultimately shape media coverage more succinctly than media actors themselves.

Owing to their considerable influence on both ordinary people and elites, journalists can highlight the importance of fighting hunger and ignorance, the nemesis of development.

But this has largely been eroded over time by the birth of economic globalisation – a system that utilises the media to sell its policies and products.

FOR EXAMPLE, the media in Rwanda could have courageously chosen the path of truth by giving facts about what was happening in 1994. They chose not to.

Journalists can choose to celebrate the way development creates winners at the expense of tracking the uneven effects of growth, and documenting how the "losers" must cope with these inequities.

While the media has a constitutional right to disseminate information, it should be conscious of its responsibility to the stability of the nation.

AS SOMEONE once remarked, "The media has a duty to present facts as they are and a responsibility to protect the good image of the fatherland. This is a hallmark of patriotism."

It is not surprising then that the perception of a country's standing internationally greatly depend on the contents of news in the local media, especially now that most television stations broadcast on satellite and are viewed all over the world.

When undue emphasis is placed on crisis, strife and other negative trends when they happen or not, we are definitely creating a slanted impression of ourselves at great cost to our national pride.

Oscar Kimanuka is a commentator on social and economic issues based in Kigali.