By Zita Zage

In July, Rwandans will head to the polls to elect a new president. To help understand the current political landscape in Rwanda, this article provides a curated collection of informative sources to keep you informed about the upcoming election and Rwandan news.

Located in the Great Rift Valley of Central Africa, where the African Great Lakes region and Southeast Africa converge, Rwanda has a population exceeding 14 million. While over 99 percent of Rwandans speak Kinyarwanda, the country recognises three other official languages: French, English, and Swahili. Media publications and broadcasts in Rwanda are predominantly in English and Kinyarwanda.

Essential information is disseminated to the public through various newspapers, television networks, radio stations and social media. These media outlets are overseen by a self-regulatory body, the Media High Council.

The New Times is the oldest and largest privately owned English-language newspaper in the country. Meanwhile, IGIHE and Umuseke, which are purely digital news sites that provide coverage in Kinyarwanda, hold significant prominence.

IGIHE, with over 396,000 followers on Facebook, leads the digital scene, while Umuseke and the New Times follow with 121,100 and 70,000 followers, respectively. On X (formerly Twitter), IGIHE boasts an impressive 596,700 followers, surpassing the New Times with  482,800 followers and Umuseke with 42,000 followers. Across their respective YouTube channels, these news sites have amassed more than 475,00070,100, and 85,000 followers. Turning to Instagram, IGIHE continues to shine with over 423,000 followers, while Umuseke and the New Times maintain strong followings with 2,500 and 78,400 followers, respectively.

The New Times, which is a print and online newspaper, has been criticised for being too optimistic and “too servile” to the ruling party. Other privately owned online English-language newspapers include The RwandanKT PressRwanda Today and Jambo News.

RTV is the only state-owned TV station in Rwanda. It is operated by the Rwanda Broadcasting Agency (RBA), and information is mostly broadcast in Kinyarwanda. RTV delivers daily news and entertainment shows to the Rwandan public in three languages: English, Rwandan, and Kinyarwanda. RTV actively engages with its audience on YouTube, Instagram and X, where it has garnered over 552,000307,000, and 144,300 followers on the respective platforms. In total, there are about 12 TV stations in Rwanda of which most are privately owned. These private stations encompass TV One, Flash TV, Big Television Network (BTN) TV, Authentic TV, Isango Star TV, TV10, Victory TV, Prime TV, Buryohe TV, Isibo TV, and Pacis TV.

Radio Rwanda, a subsidiary of the RBA, broadcasts in Kinyarwanda, French, Kiswahili, and English on FM 100.7, offering a diverse linguistic broadcast alongside other media outlets in Rwanda that predominantly operate in English and Kinyarwanda. Several privately owned radio stations contribute to the media landscape in Rwanda, including City Radio, Isango Star, K-FM, Huguka Radio, Radio One, Authentic Radio, Conseil Protestant du Rwanda, Voice of Africa, Voice of Hope, Kiss FM, Royal FM, Hot FM, Voice of America, Fine FM, Vision Radio, ADEPR Radio, Sana Radio, and RFI. Several privately owned radio stations occasionally express critical views on government policies.

Want to stay up to date with the latest journalism and media innovation news from the African continent? Subscribe to our newsletter.

On the global stage, Rwanda news receives coverage from several French and English-speaking international media outlets, including Voice of Americathe Conversationthe IndependentNews NowOkayafricaAl JazeeraFrance 24Radio France Internationalethe GuardianAfricanews and BBC Africa.

Although internet penetration in Rwanda increased from 23.3% in 2022, it remains relatively low at 30.5%, according to a 2023 report by DataReportal, implying that about 69.7% of the population remained offline at the beginning of 2023. Only 5.7% of the total population actively uses social media, with Facebook (644,600 users) and LinkedIn (290,000 users) being the most widely utilised platforms. They are followed by Instagram (264,700), Twitter (218,400), and Facebook Messenger (101,300).

The state of freedom of expression in Rwanda has been a continual focus for international organisations. The current president, Paul Kagame has ruled the country since 1994 and intends to seek reelection this year in the July elections. According to the 2023 Freedom House report, President Kagame’s regime has maintained stability and economic growth, but it has also suppressed political dissent through pervasive surveillance, intimidation, arbitrary detention, torture, and renditions or suspected assassinations of exiled dissidents. As a result, the report categorised Rwanda as “Not Free,” giving it a score of 23 out of 100.

In 2023, Reporters Without Borders ranked Rwanda 131st out of 180 countries, showing an improvement from the previous year’s rank of 136. Despite this, the Rwandan media landscape is often considered one of the poorest in Africa. Reporters Without Borders attributes Rwanda’s low ranking to the authoritarianism and censorship faced by the media, where journalists are compelled to pledge allegiance to the government and participate in patriotism programs.

Dissent and criticism are suppressed through references to the memory of the 1994 genocide and the use of hate media. Prior to the genocide, influential factions in Rwanda established Radio Télévision Libre des Mille Collines (RTLM), which played a sinister role by disseminating anti-Tutsi propaganda, contributing to approximately 10 percent of the violence during the genocide.

In an effort to maintain control over information dissemination, the Rwandan government has, on occasion, enforced bans on international media outlets. For example, the government banned BBC broadcasts because of a documentary on the genocide.

These measures underscore the government’s commitment to managing information flows and shaping narratives in alignment with its political agenda, even at the cost of restricting access to diverse perspectives and global insights.


Media entrepreneur Q&A: Johnson Kanamugire of The Rwanda Post



Everything you need to know regarding journalism and media innovation in Africa – fortnightly in your inbox.