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Bad News: Last Journalists in a Dictatorship Hardcover – January 12, 2016

4.4 out of 5 stars 21 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

An Amazon Best Book of January 2016: While Bad News is Anjan Sundaram's telling of his experience running a journalist's training program in Rwanda from 2009 to 2013, it isn't overly heavy on journalism or activism, but rather brings the feeling of a suspense or thriller plot. Through excellent writing, Sundaram demonstrates the overwhelming presence of fear and control from the Rwandan government and the constant steps they take to prevent anyone from speaking out against their single way of thinking. This is very much a story of the power and need for freedom of expression wherever you are--whether in Africa or the United States. --Penny Mann


Praise for Bad News:

"Bad News‘ coverage of Rwanda is a true uncovering. Sundaram’s extraordinary reporting returns political stakes to literary ambition, reminding us that writing always participates in political life.... When we write, we celebrate the strange turn by which a word’s pinning of feeling and fact is not limitation but announcement of release. Denied this release, a country finds itself denied a public record—and public life.
Megha Majumdar, LitHub

"During Sundaram’s time in Rwanda, almost every major journalist he trained was either arrested or forced to flee the country. One writer who hadn’t yet joined the program was killed. Everyone else was so intimidated as to have been effectively silenced. The country was full of media dutifully spreading Kagame’s propaganda, but as far as Sundaram was concerned, real reporters were an endangered species."
—Jordan Teicher, Los Angeles Review of Books

“Bad News: Last Journalists in a Dictatorship
” lead[s] the reader to a heightened recognition of how fear can be used to seep into any society, subtly at first, and then malignantly transformative.
Diana Nelson Jones, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

"Writing of his experience running a journalists’ training program in Kigali, Rwanda, Sundaram captures the quiet menace of his surroundings: The wide roads indicate progress but are in fact devoid of any life. The people scurry out of the perfectly sculpted streetlights’ sodium-vapor glare, afraid of attracting attention. And the bombs are immediately hushed up by the government, too quickly for anyone to notice, let alone write about in a newspaper.... Sundaram’s exposé is courageous and heartfelt."
Aditi Sriram, Washington Post

Spotlight, the film about the Boston Globe’s reporting on sexual predators in the Catholic Church, has recently reminded us about the importance of investigative journalism—but Sundaram’s relatively unheralded new book is an equally important cultural document. Bad News is a searing illustration of the dangers associated with newsgathering in an authoritarian state, and a paean to those courageous enough to practice it in such dire circumstances."
—Kevin Canfield, San Francisco Chronicle

“Few people have suffered the hideous fate of Rwandans in the modern era. It is shocking, painful beyond words, to see the darkness settling again in a dystopia that is crushing free expression and individual lives. This searing, evocative account, focusing on young journalists struggling to gain the rights they so richly deserve, provides insights about the human condition that reach far beyond the tragic story of Rwanda.”
—Noam Chomsky

"Once in a while, a book comes along with the potential to alter our understanding of a place and its history. Anjan Sundaram’s Bad News: The Last Journalists in a Dictatorship, which exposes the repression endured in one of the world’s poorest countries, is one such work. There has been plenty written about post-conflict society, but in the case of Rwanda, we rarely get such a cogent view of life inside an oppressive state bent on controlling the public narrative.... Make no mistake about it: there is a war going on against legitimate journalism the world over. Oppressive regimes and their PR firms are winning that war. But with Bad News, Sundaram boldly strikes back at the powers that be and his aim is true. Sundaram has pulled back a weighty veil and exposed layers of manipulation that are—for most of us—almost impossible to see."
—African Arguments

"Sundaram's insights are harrowing, his narrative fast paced and immediate."
—Financial Times

"Powerful and shocking memoir... a damning indictment not only of the Rwandan regime, but also the western governments and agencies that have failed to question its practices." 
Sunday Times (UK)

"Anjan Sundaram is a keen observer and a fine writer. In Bad News, he has rendered a chilling chronicle of the creeping totalitarianism taking hold in Rwanda that is as disturbing as it is unforgettable."
Jon Lee Anderson

"A superb expose of a dictatorship... an important book... a desolate work, taut prose describing the stifling atmosphere of a nation trapped in fear."
The Observer (UK)

"An unsettling account of journalists under fire." 
—Foreign Affairs

"This is an important book for students of political science, modern history, and journalism."
Publishers Weekly

"A powerful account of a nation 20 years later, still trying to recover from shocking genocide."

"Sundaram's talents show in his creation of an atmosphere of paranoia and dread.... A chilling account of reporters in danger that heightens awareness of the importance of a free press."
Kirkus Reviews

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday (January 12, 2016)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385539568
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385539562
  • Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 1 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #93,501 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Nathan Webster TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on December 20, 2015
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I had read this author's "Stringer," and what I didn't like about it was how the residents of the Congo often seemed distant from his narrative. Anjan Sundaram corrected that issue (of mine) for this book, and has brought the reader many clear portrayals of the Rwandans he worked with and tried to teach.

This is an interesting and grim story of Rwanda, which has recovered from the 1994 genocidal violence perhaps not as well as the western media likes to proclaim. Sundaram has presented an account of a nation ruled by a dictator interested in quashing dissent, especially any free press. There are spies, betrayals and threats on all sides. While there isn't the same kind of violence they faced before, the citizens face a constant undercurrent of threat. It is probably a primer into how North Korea was created - I'm not saying it's as bad as North Korea, but I can see the same compromises and willingness to avoid trouble that probably led the North Koreans to slide into dictatorship.

Sundaram tries to teach new journalists, funded by a grant, but is beset on all sides by government threats - not directly against him, but the people he cares about. He is just one man, and as you can expect, this does not have a happy ending.

My main complaint is the opposite of "Stringer." Here, I appreciated the up-close human connections, but what I didn't like was it felt almost like the story was all middle, with no beginning or end. While there's some historical context, I think a reader unaware of Rwandan history (and I barely am) will be a little lost at times. But - still an important story.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This small book is one intense chapter after the next. It reads like a political thriller. You are thrown into the throes of Kigali, Rwanda, and the author describes his time as a journalism instructor for a group of Rwandans who were mostly children during the 1993 genocide and who are determined to expose the truth. Every person he profiles, from Moses to Gibson to Rogers and a few others all have their horrifying stories to tell, of relatives killed, neighbors slaughtered, and friends who dissappeared without a trace.

The sad thing is, this is now two decades later and there is still distrust toward the government that doesn't want its people to forget that summer of killing. Bombs go off near the presidential palace and even the president won't admit to that. Videos of machete killings are played during "Memorial week," only to remind people that no one should be trusted. Anjan Sundaram's students all fear of being kidnapped, tortured, killed. In the back of the book is a long list of names of journalism victims of the government repression; many disappeared or were killed.

The tension never ends in this book, which makes it hard to put down. Sundaram does not paint a rosy picture of the Rwandan government and even he learns that some of his own students are not to be trusted. He reveals some secrets toward the end that even surprised me. This is a fast read, but a tense and not-so-happy ending, which describes the contemporary situation of Rwanda. For those interested in current events, African affairs or even international politics, this is a must read.
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Poignant look at journalism in Rwanda that left me inspired to keep truth alive in all countries. Readers will be particularly amazed at the level of self-repression inspired by Kagame's leadership. How does one discover the truth when no person will say it? This brought home the importance of seeking truth no matter what people might be saying.
This book is tense, but inspiring in its loyalty to old-school journalism--not as entertainment or click-generating content but as information that is true, useful, relevant, and holding those in power accountable for their actions.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Bad News is about journalism in Rwanda since the 1990s genocides. The author has reported from central African since 2005, and all the action takes place since then. He tells autobiographical stories one after the other of time in Rwanda at a program teaching at a journalism school training locals on how to do reporting. Stories flow one after the other with heavy detail about harassment and intimidation of reporters and governmental attempts to control its image. The book is very much about pragmatics of how information gets out to Rwandans and what information gets recorded. This also conveys a very real sense of the personal danger journalist face. The author has some protection through being a foreigner and Western connections, but local journalists don't have that. More than just Rwanda, this is likely the state of journalism in many parts of the world.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I picked this up immediately as I had enjoyed the author's venerated Stringer.
It is difficult for me to read journalist stories by authors praised by mainstream press, like the New York Times. I'm sure many would question my loss of respect for the New York Times and other mainstream sources[google: Stephen Lendman NYTimes]. Yet, with the news channels of FOX, CBS, CNN and their ilk; and in that TV-type medium, I probably would not be so lonely.
This prelude, is to say that I have noticed a government influence reaching from the 1950's CIA Mockingbird to now, which has increased in levels of sophistication and technology. So now, when I pick up a new book by a journalist on controversial subject matters, I take it has a given that the field of inquiry has been salted. Rwanda, for instance, has a number of critics on what actually took place; what led up to the it; who participated; and other factors, that leave the current, written accepted history - in question. Perhaps like those who that have questioned a more recent event: 9/11.
Now to: Bad News. Anjan Sundaram has come to Rwanda to teach journalists how to write. This writing program was funded by the United Kingdom and the European Union. Anjan arrives at a wretched moment; an explosion caused by a grenade. The author then/... searched for charred metal, the smell of burning rubber, any remains of violence. A blue-uniformed policeman stood near the traffic circle, tall and rigid. I raised my hand to signal him. After the author signals him. The policeman begins to question the blasting explosion the author has just heard from down the hill/No, no, you are imagining things... We always clean the roads... No photos! No Photos!... Listen carefully. Nothing happened here.
So begins the Bad News.
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