This report looks into the threats to press freedom and the media sector in general during the COVID-19 pandemic in the Republic of Rwanda. It covers the period from March 2020 when the Government instituted measures to curb the spread of COVID-19 until March 2021, focusing on the fate of journalists and the media during the lockdowns.
In March 2020 Rwanda imposed a total lockdown, the first in Africa and one of the strictest on the continent. Movement was restricted except for workers in essential services.
The media was not explicitly listed among essential services but there were arrangements to facilitate media operations. However, not being recognised among essential services created a challenging work environment for the media in general as it exposed journalists to a range of threats such as being arrested in course of duty.
The media faced a host of other challenges on top of the security threats. Some challenges arose from economic hardships occasioned by the lockdown; others were health-related such as contracting the coronavirus or developing mental health issues.
Summary of the report
This study employed a mixed-methods approach to examine the threats to press freedom during the COVID-19 pandemic and the measures stakeholders took to mitigate those threats.
The quantitative aspect involved a survey of 20 journalists and media managers, followed by qualitative in-depth interviews with selected respondents to throw more light on the findings of the survey.
The study examines the statutory bodies involved in the media sector and discusses the decade-old reforms that changed that sector. It presents summaries of how leading human rights organisations have described the press freedom situation in Rwanda, based on documented cases of abuse of media freedoms, thus providing background and context to the way the media was handled during the pandemic.
Furthermore, the report identifies the roles state agencies such as the Police and media regulators played during the pandemic that impacted on press freedom.
Download report: The state of media freedom during Covid-19 pandemic in Rwanda