Bad News: Last Journalists in a Dictatorship
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.
government to have obtained this new round of financing, crucial for it to continue to hold power and execute its ideas. The Western embassy officials were also pleased that they had managed to obtain so much money from their parliaments. Rwanda, in return for the foreign support, did its best to behave as a model international citizen, sending police officers to Haiti for earthquake relief and soldiers to Darfur as U.N. peacekeepers. A ministry official took the podium and did not thank the
number and vitality. Those journalists who had served as role models in this dangerous and oppressive environment were gone. And now it was much more difficult to get the others to talk. The fast chopping of the helicopter passed above from time to time. I sat in the office garden, under the guava tree and its white flowers. I thought of Gibson, and how he had left. I was not going to let this go without a struggle. I felt I needed to recruit. So many people had already given up so much for
some new cloth. He became immensely pleased. I had come with an idea to travel with Gibson. We were entering the season of memorials for the genocide, in which some eight hundred thousand people had been killed over a hundred days—a rate of murder unequaled even by the Nazis—and in great pain, for they were killed mostly with machetes, not guns. It had been an idea of mine since I had arrived in Rwanda, to pay homage to and remember those who had died from this human cruelty. But Gibson
government—started to taunt and threaten him in front of his house. Gibson ultimately sold his beloved sofa set, and with it, his dream of starting a family, which he had cherished for so long. He feared that something terrible was being planned for him—the signs multiplied and grew in intensity. He again had to flee. We met and agreed to break off contact. It was too dangerous for us to talk. We shook hands and hugged for the last time. I didn’t know if Gibson managed to get out of Rwanda, and
and is therefore not a criminal—not yet,” I said. “But the president has said she is a criminal,” someone countered vociferously. “Does that make her a criminal?” It was futile, for the courts depended entirely on the president. Reformist judges had been expelled so the president controlled the judiciary. This was how dictators destroyed countries, to gain power: they destroyed the capacity for independent speech, then independent institutions—and ultimately independent thought itself. I was