Index 2024
144/ 180
Score : 40.54
Political indicator
Economic indicator
Legislative indicator
Social indicator
Security indicator
Index 2023
131/ 180
Score : 46.58
Political indicator
Economic indicator
Legislative indicator
Social indicator
Security indicator

To justify his control over the media since taking power, Paul Kagame has exploited Rwanda’s collective memory of the 1994 genocide, an era when the media fueled racial hatred. 

Media landscape

Undermined by decades of oppression, the Rwandan media landscape is one of the poorest in Africa. TV channels are controlled by the government or through shareholders who are members of the ruling party. Most radio stations concentrate on music and sports to avoid having problems. In a country of 12 million inhabitants, there is no longer a single national newspaper. Investigative journalism is not widely practiced, and journalists who have tried to circulate sensitive or critical content via YouTube or other online outlets in recent years have received harsh sentences.

Political context

President Paul Kagame’s reelection for a third term in August 2017 reinforced the government’s authoritarianism and censorship. Media owners must pledge allegiance to the government, and many journalists have been forced to attend a patriotism programme or become members of the ruling party. The authorities can intervene directly to fire those who resist. The memory of the genocide and hate media, such as Radio Mille Collines, is widely exploited to prevent the expression of any dissent or criticism. 

Legal framework

Defamation has been decriminalised but the 2018 penal code reform maintained prison sentences for contempt and defamation of the president in the media. The authorities often prosecute journalists for reasons unrelated to their work or treat them as activists, a classic technique for claiming not to detain any journalists. The illegal surveillance of journalists' phone communications makes it hard for them to protect the confidentiality of their sources.

Economic context

The advertising market is limited by the absence of a strong private sector independent of the ruling party. Corruption is widespread and some journalists are offered advantages to influence their work. The precarious nature of media jobs and the strong pressures and intimidation that journalists face put off younger people, who gravitate more readily towards PR jobs that are better paid and less risky. 

Sociocultural context

The spectre of the genocide still haunts the collective memory and genocide-related reporting must conform to the Kagame government's vision. The weight of three decades of fear and a culture of silence constrains freedom of expression, complicating the work of journalists.


Many methods are used in Rwanda to prevent journalists from working freely, including surveillance, espionage, arrest, and enforced disappearance. Since 1996, nine journalists have been killed or reported missing, and 35 have been forced into exile. Several journalists, including some living abroad, were also among the Rwandan government’s targets in the Pegasus spyware scandal. It is also common for intelligence agents to follow journalists while they are reporting. Arbitrary arrests and detentions have increased in recent years, and journalists working online are also face intense repression. The level of impunity for crimes committed against journalists is significant.