Bad News: Last Journalists in a Dictatorship
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The author of the acclaimed Stringer: A Reporter’s Journey in the Congo now moves on to Rwanda for a gripping look at a country caught still in political and social unrest, years after the genocide that shocked the world.
Bad News is the story of Anjan Sundaram's time running a journalist's training program out of Kigali, the capital city of one of Africa's most densely populated countries, Rwanda. President Kagame’s regime, which seized power after the genocide that ravaged its population in 1994, is often held up as a beacon for progress and modernity in Central Africa and is the recipient of billions of dollars each year in aid from Western governments and international organizations. Lurking underneath this shining vision of a modern, orderly state, however, is the powerful climate of fear springing from the government's brutal treatment of any voice of dissent. "You can't look and write," a policeman ominously tells Sundaram, as he takes notes at a political rally. In Rwanda, the testimony of the individual—the evidence of one's own experience—is crushed by the pensée unique: the single way of thinking and speaking, proscribed by those in power.
A vivid portrait of a country at an extraordinary and dangerous place in its history, Bad News is a brilliant and urgent parable on freedom of expression, and what happens when that power is seized.
prisons.” “Many developed countries were once dictatorships. Tell us how they obtained their freedom.” The stout young man said the last time he was beaten he had been blinded by his own blood gushing over his face. It was because he had mentioned the harassment of journalists at a press conference, in front of the president. His name was Jean-Bosco, and he ran a popular newspaper. He had been left in a coma for four days after that attack. “But we have to keep speaking out,” a female student
struggles to create a political opposition, and about how everyone had thought him ridiculous, his task impossible, until the dictatorship suddenly crumbled. Agnès stared at the other journalists. The Czech dissident spoke about his efforts to create news pamphlets and underground information networks—it was a battle with the dictatorship, a battle to keep alive the information that the regime destroyed, suppressed. And I felt it was important that he described his pamphlets: for the
and told the people to destroy their roofs. It was an order. “And you obeyed?” I said. “At once.” He was grim, as though this should not be questioned. Had the authorities explained their order? “They had said the president had felt the grass roofs were too primitive.” And what did this man think? “They are too primitive,” he said. “Our country is modern now.” He said he had built the grass-roofed hut by himself, for his family, and they had lived in it for twenty years. So what did he
powerful, omnipotent, were unequivocally aiding the repression. Perversely, the donors also promoted Rwanda as a success. Donors needed to show results for the money they spent. The propaganda, unchallenged, became convenient proof that their aid was doing good. The donors thus became reluctant to talk about repression, and eager to talk about the progress the government was making. Money that should have come to a program like ours was given instead to the government, which was tasked with
before they had been reluctant: “He knows what he is doing.” “Then why does he write like this?” Silence again. A student finally spoke up: “He wants to make the president happy. The editor in chief knows what he is doing is wrong. But to please the president he will not only agree with what the president has said, but go even further. Out of an excess of zeal. He will accuse Victoire, indict her and judge her for other crimes. It is how we are taught to show loyalty—” “One journalist has