cover image Bad News: Last Journalists in a Dictatorship

Bad News: Last Journalists in a Dictatorship

Anjan Sundaram. Doubleday, $25.95 (208p) ISBN 978-0-385-53956-2

Journalist Sundaram (Stringer) takes an affecting, if draining, look at conditions in Rwanda from April 2009 to December 2013. Focusing on his experiences with a program that trained Rwandans as journalists, he describes his relationships with his students and his struggle, as President Kagame's government grew more repressive, to find new ones. The book opens with Sundaram investigating the sound of an explosion, only to be informed by a police officer that he imagined it. This moment of state-mandated disconnection between reality and perception is just the first of many the book explores, at times powerfully. The cumulative effect, however, is exhausting. Students come and go from Sundaram's class, but there are a few that he clearly admires and considers friends. Gibson, a student of particular talent, struggles after being placed under government surveillance. Moses, another such student, is a survivor of the genocide, and one of the most poignant moments occurs when Sundaram accompanies Moses to a genocide memorial. These relationships add a measure of warmth to a book that comes to feel endlessly bleak. Despite the wearying grimness, this is an important book for students of political science, modern history, and journalism. (Jan.)