May 3, 2019

Documenting Rwanda’s Male Dominated Newsrooms


These are some of the media we sampled and which we were able to get data from.

As Rwandan media joins the rest of the world to mark World Press Freedom Day today, May 3, The Chronicles has gone to the newsrooms to find out how many reporters and editors are women compared to men.

Having female and male journalists and editors is important for two broad reasons. The first is that having a gender balanced newsroom will produce balanced news stories and analysis as far as gender equality is concerned. This contributes to informed citizenry as it undermines gender stereotypes. The second is ensuring equal opportunities for men and women in the industry as is required by law.

To contextualize, Rwanda’s supreme law, the 2003 Constitution is very clear; Rwandan men and women are equal. In the preamble, this is set as a national principle and section 10 states that Rwanda is “Committed to ensuring equal rights between Rwandans and between women and men without prejudice to the principles of gender equality and complementarity in national development”.

Article 9 section 4, goes further, stipulating a 30% quota for women at the decision making table. The section states that the nation aspires to: “building a state governed by the rule of law, a pluralistic democratic government, equality of all Rwandans and between women and men reflected by ensuring that women are granted at least thirty per cent of posts in decision making organs”.

In other words, any media that has not done enough to encourage and recruit women to join its newsroom isn’t living up to constitutional principles.

A study released in June last year by the Rwanda Media Commission (RMC), the industry’s self-regulatory body, shows that just about 28% editors and reporters are women.

At The Chronicles, we conducted a mini survey to find out how many women are in the country’s newsrooms.

The sample was done on the biggest media groups such as the state broadcaster (RBA) which has different TV and Radio channels; Kigali Today Ltd which has a radio and two news websites; and Ubumwe Media Group, which recently merged four news sites (Ukwezi, Umuryango, Umuseke and Bwiza).

The other category we sampled are Single Entity Media, which are just one entity but operate a large newsroom such as The New Times Publication (print and online), IGIHE.com and Radio Maria─Catholic Church broadcaster.

The sample selected 13 entities in total, including The Chronicles itself. To obtain the information, we contacted the most senior managers.

Our questions were simple and posed via the phone: (1) How many editors do you have and how many of them are female? (2) How many reporters do you have and how many are female?

Most of the managers we contacted were very cooperative, and provided us with the numbers without any hesitation. However, some were not forthcoming─despite the access to information law that requires providing such information and despite they themselves are always complaining of being denied information by public officials!

Radio10 and TV10 Group promised to give us the numbers, but had not done so by press time. TV1 and Radio1 said they can only give us the numbers in a face to face encounter not via the phone.

At The Chronicles, there is no female reporter or editor─despite our support for gender equality and equal access to opportunities.

There are more than 30 FM radio stations, but we sampled a few among them because a vast majority of them have no news departments. Their teams are made up of producers and presenters who do free-style animation and commentary. 

MEDIA EDITORS FEMALES REPORTERS/PRESENTERS FEMALES

Ubumwe Media Group
(Ukwezi Umuseke
Umuryango Bwiza)

12 0 45 8
RBA 5 1 96 32
Kigali Today Ltd 5 1 41 8
Kiss FM 1 0 6 3
The New times 11 3 26 7
IGIHE.com 3 1 11 4
Radio Maria Rwanda 3 1 6 3
The Chronicles 3 0 5 0
TOTAL 43 7 236 65
Percentage 16.27 % Women Editors 27.54 % Women Reporters/Presenters

The RMC study, done in collaboration with Women in Media Platform said the way editors handle their newsrooms also undermines women participation.

“Most of the opportunities are given to men and most times women get lower salaries compared to their male counterparts,” said Peace Hilary Tumwesigire, the Managing Director of Family Magazine at the event last year where the report was released, adding: “This is the reason why female fresh graduates from journalism schools prefer to go in public relations positions than the media.”

At the same event, a study on the media coverage of the 2017 polls was shared. It showed that over 70% of sources used were male.

“When a journalist is searching for interviews, does he remember that he needs quotes from men and women? We found that it is still a challenge because more stories give voice to men only, which somehow brings a negative impact to female empowerment,” said Emmanuel Mugisha, the RMC Executive Secretary.

Régine Akarikumutima, the executive secretary of Rwanda Women in Media Platform observed that not having women in the newsroom denies a media some crucial stories, especially those about women issues.

“Female journalists are likely to understand complaints and fears of women more than male reporters,” said Akarikumutima. “Out in the field, women are not free to give out their comments and opinion to journalists especially if they are men. But if they are approached by female reporters, they somehow feel free.”

Gender Stereotypes

The Chronicles spoke to various journalists, but not many were willing to be quoted.

A male editor at a radio station, in stereotypical form, said: “Female journalists only like to be presenters on radio. When they are assigned to go to the field for reporting they do bring poorly sourced and written stories which have to be rewritten completely. Imagine coming from [the] field with no story angle, just bringing only clips. Not many can be editors.” 

Theogene Manirakiza, from Ubumwe Media Group, also said females who finish journalism at university are going to other sectors.

“The media industry is very unstable and stressful. Females want stability in any job which is not the case in the media as it is very stressful and demanding,” he added.

Marie Claire Joyeuse, a journalist at Kigali Today and who has been in the media more than 12 years said nearly all media managers and chief editors are males.

“Because they feel that male journalists will do the job quickly, they hire them for senior roles and then give lower roles to women,” she said.

She added: “On the other hand however, many female journalists have low self-confidence which undermines their level of involvement in the newsroom. As result, they do not rise through the ranks.”

At the School of Journalism and Communication (SJC) of the University of Rwanda, the premier training school for media practitioners, the intake for females is also still low. We have provided the number of students from First Year to Final Year.

SJC Year Male Students Female Total
1 44 27 71
2 69 38 107
3 85 42 127
4 54 27 81
Total 252 134 386

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