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Journalism professor to participate in press law seminars in Rwanda during 2004

Steven Pasternack, a journalism professor at New Mexico State University, will travel to Africa this week to participate in the first of six seminars on press law in Rwanda.



Steven Pasternack, a journalism professor at New Mexico State University, will travel to Africa this week to participate in the first of six seminars on press law in Rwanda. (NMSU photo by Darren Phillips)


The first seminar will begin Jan. 13 and will discuss the right of access to information.

Pasternack will supervise, coordinate and participate in the series, which is being administered by Internews-Europe, a Paris-based organization dedicated to improving the quality of journalism and free press worldwide. The seminars were funded by the governments of the United Kingdom and Netherlands.

"The purpose of the seminars is to try and start a dialogue and understanding among people from the media, government and the general society about freedom of the press and what the new press law means," he said.

A new press law was passed in 2002 in Rwanda.

Pasternack will discuss what press laws in other countries say and how these laws are set up, and then engage the Rwandans in discussions and debate about their situation.

A seminar on freedom of the press in Rwanda is very important because "in the early to mid 1990s, extremist hate-media fanned the flames of genocide and now the country is trying to figure out in what direction to go with (regarding) press liberty and rights while at the same time making sure that kind of thing never occurs again," he said.

Although Rwanda has a press law, Pasternack said there is still another fight that needs to be won -- a cultural battle.

"Traditionally, Rwanda is a very closed society," he said. "It's a closed culture where people don't easily share information. You have to change their way of doing things. It's an uphill fight."

This will be Pasternack's 14th visit to Rwanda and 20th visit to Africa since 1998. He will return to the United States on Jan. 18.