Bad News: Last Journalists in a Dictatorship
By Anjan Sundaram
Doubleday, 2016, 208 pp.
In circumstances he never quite explains, Sundaram spent some time in Rwanda in recent years conducting a workshop for local journalists. In this capacity, he befriended a number of young reporters struggling under increasing pressure from the government of President Paul Kagame. By the end of the book, they are all either in jail, in hiding, exiled—or working for Kagame’s government. Sundaram’s heartfelt chronicle closely observes the mechanisms by which the Kagame regime has curtailed freedom of the press by co-opting, intimidating, arresting, and even committing violence against independent journalists. Sundaram complains bitterly about the heroic reputation that Kagame has earned in the West for his efforts to rebuild the country after the 1994 genocide; in Sundaram’s view, Kagame actually runs a police state intent on limiting even the most timid forms of opposition to its rule at the same time as it receives substantial foreign aid. Despite an appendix detailing the government’s harsh treatment of several dozen Rwandan journalists over the last two decades, the book relies too heavily on a mood of brutality and doom rather than a careful analysis of the regime and its methods. Still, Sundaram has written an unsettling account of journalists under fire.