President Paul Kagame, has finally given his assent to the Media Law, after years of deliberations and consultations, within Parliament and the broader media fraternity, writes Edmund Kagire in The New Times.

The new law signed this week is already in application and has been
published in the National Gazette, according to the Ministry of
Information (MINIFOR).

The law has been a point of debate, in
both chambers of Parliament and within the media circles over different
articles and clauses, often courting controversy, to a point that,
President Kagame, was prompted to order for the law which had already
been passed by Parliament to return for further cleaning following
protests from media practitioners.

"The new Media Law is out. It
has been signed and it is already in application. This is absolutely a
landmark achievement for the media in Rwanda.

We have been
talking about the principles and ethics of the media, the conduct,
privacy intrusion and what happens to those who flout the rules,"
explained Ignatius Kabagambe, the Director General in MINIFOR.

previous law has not been clear on the above like the new law is. But
this does not mean that the new law has come to make life difficult.
But as you know there is need for order and terms of reference and this
law provides the legal redress required."

President Kagame
proposed amendments to four controversial articles in the media bill
that had not gone down well with media practitioners prompting the bill
to return to the lower chamber of parliament and the Senate.

President's proposal came following increased criticism from media
practitioners over some controversial clauses that the press said
undermined the integrity of their profession.

The amendments in
the new law include article 2, paragraph 7, which gives the green light
to practicing scribes to continue the trade without necessarily having
studied communication or journalism as it had been proposed in the
earlier bill.

The article however sets a condition that the
practicing journalist should possess at least a diploma from a
recognized institution.

Article 13, paragraph 1, which required
journalists to get prior official permission to publish any information
was amended to allow them to collect and disseminate information freely
and seek permission only when using copyright material.

The change means media practitioners will nurture and enhance investigative journalism in the country.

Also amended is Article 88 which stated that a journalist will be held legally responsible for any published story.

if a print journalist commits an error, the Editor in Chief will be
held responsible while in the electronic media, the reporter or
presenter shall be held accountable for the mistake and later on the
line editors.

The law puts in place a five-year transitional
period to allow practicing journalists who do not meet the requirements
to upgrade their academic status.

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