The International Reporting Project (IRP) and 12 senior U.S. editors and producers traveled to Rwanda from November 6-19, 2011, to learn more about this important country.

The Gatekeepers concluded their trip by meeting with Paul Kagame, the President of Rwanda, to talk about the tiny but complex Central African country. In this excerpt, the president fields questions about laws restricting the freedom of the press in Rwanda.

“Rwanda has been ranked poorly not because it should be ranked poorly,” Kagame commented, adding that the country’s poor media freedom rankings are “unfair” and “an injustice” at times.

“If I were the one to decide entirely on these issues,” he continued, “nobody would be punished for criticizing the President. . . . I wouldn’t even have issue with anybody writing things about me at all.”

“I’m not a prosecutor, I’m not in charge of the court of law,” the president said. “I have let these things run their course. . . . It doesn’t have to come from me.”

“It keeps improving,” Kagame says. “But there is no other impediment to media development in this country.”

Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo—who, as the former minister in charge of media, has taken part of the discussion about how to improve laws about media—comments that “There is sort of a soul-searching going on in how to improve both professionalism, respect our law and push our media to go a bit higher than where it is today.”

Mushikiwabo concluded, “We should allow time going with the maturing of our media, and then decide whether it should be now a civil offense or remain a criminal offense. But this is an area that is evolving. And the issues—the more the issues of defamation disappear in our media, the more people may be inclined to make it a civil offense.”

Audio excerpt by Rebecca Davis and Melody Wilson. Photos by Amy Hollyfield and the office of Paul Kagame.

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