Speech at National University of Rwanda
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April 23, 2010
Governor General Highlights the Importance of Journalistic Responsibility and Ethics During Visit to Rwanda
OTTAWA—Her Excellency the Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean, Governor General of Canada, reiterated the importance she gives to journalism in democratic societies in an address delivered yesterday at the National University of Rwanda, in Butare. The Governor General attended a roundtable on the civic responsibility of the media.
“I appreciate the weighty responsibility and the task of journalists in an emerging democracy like yours, which is trying to rebuild, to restore the ties of trust so brutally and bloodily broken, and to carry out a necessary and painful duty of remembering,” said the Governor General. “Only on that condition can words testify to the truth, awaken consciences, foster openness and allow for dialogue that leads to healing and to genuine reconciliation.”
Accompagnied by a Canadian delegation, the Governor General undertook a state visit to the Republic of Rwanda, from April 20 to 23. In the afternoon, yesterday, Her Excellency toured rural communities in the region of Nyamagabe and in Kibirizi. She got a firsthand look at the outcomes of one of CIDA's projects in the region. The Governor General also met with regional representatives of the National Women’s Council, underlining the fact that Rwanda is now a world leader with respect to women's representation on decision-making bodies.
The public can follow the State visits to Senegal, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda and Cap Verde through the speeches and photos available daily at www.gg.ca. Blogs written by Her Excellency and the delegates are posted on www.citizenvoices.gg.ca.
Remarks delivered by the Governor General at the National University of Rwanda:
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The Canadian delegation accompanying me and I are happy to be here with young, dynamic Rwandans to take part in a discussion on the role of journalism in a country that is rising from its ashes.
First of all, it is noteworthy that this place of learning speaks to us on a very personal level, because we are tied to it by history.
Father Georges-Henri Lévesque, a Canadian, was its first rector.
Father Lévesque was also among us, specifically in Quebec, a great figure and one of the first builders of the education system during the period we have called the “Quiet Revolution.”
Former students have told how Father Lévesque would often say to them: “You are young, you have an ideal. When you get older, climb toward your ideal, never lower it.”
I believe that when it is practised with concern for the truth and the common good, journalism is an ideal.
It is an ideal of democracy which we need to strive toward with all our strength, and try to maintain it at its highest level.
It is an ideal that is rooted in the desire to give everyone the tools they need to explore the world and to be able to exercise critically and knowingly their freedom to think and act.
It is also rooted in the desire to build and preserve social ties so as to establish a society that respects the rights of all.
It is about raising awareness.
Providing food for thought.
Asking questions about what has been passed over in silence.
Encouraging the expression and confrontation of ideas.
Opening hearts to realities that call for action.
That being said, I appreciate the weighty responsibility and the task of journalists in an emerging democracy like yours, which is trying to rebuild, to restore the ties of trust so brutally and bloodily broken, and to carry out a necessary and painful duty of remembering.
Only on that condition can words testify to the truth, awaken consciences, foster openness and allow for dialogue that leads to healing and to genuine reconciliation.
I feel that sums up the journalistic ideal and its power of liberation and transformation.
Some of you may know that journalism is a profession that I practised myself with conviction for 18 years on Canadian public television.
It is a profession that I believe is vital, for it pertains to, in my opinion, a civic responsibility to take part in the fight against indifference, powerlessness and ignorance. It also requires that information is communicated ethically and with rigour.
But as I said recently in Senegal, at the centre for information science and technology studies, we live in an increasingly complex world where, despite the speed and proliferation of communications, we are sometimes in danger of the abuses of one-track thinking and the excesses of media manipulation that could even lead to hate propaganda.
We have the responsibility to use information as an instrument in the service of democracy and to ensure that our sense of identity is not lost.
It is up to us to use information as a forum to express a diversity of points of view and ideas.
That, at least, is the wish I make here before you, to open our dialogue.
For we very much look forward in hearing you talk about your achievements, your challenges and your hopes.
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Rideau Hall Press Office