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Rwandan editor arrested after criticising President Kagame

Rwanda's President Paul Kagame meets with officials from the country's electoral commission to present his candidature documents in the capital Kigali June 24, 2010. Kagame is widely expected to win a second seven-year term in elections on August 9. He has held de facto power since 1994 when his guerrilla force took over after ending massacres of some 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus by Hutu authorities.

Police in Rwanda arrested the editor of a private newspaper on Thursday last in connection with a series of articles critical of the government, according to local journalists.

Agnès Uwimana was taken into custody in the capital, Kigali, over allegations that her Kinyarwanda-language weekly Umurabyo had published stories “inciting the public to disobey,” “articles related to division and ethnicity,” and “rumours that can cause disturbance in the country,” Rwandan National Police spokesman Eric Kayiranga told the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). Kayiranga said police acted in the public interest and would take Uwimana to court this week.

Umurabyo, which rose to prominence in April following the government’s closure of leading private papers Umuseso and Umugizi, had in recent editions raised questions about a number of sensitive topics, including last month’s murder of journalist Jean-Léonard Rugambage, the fallout between President Paul Kagame and two now-exiled military leaders, and reports alleging lavish government spending on luxury jets, according to local journalists. One story criticising the government was headlined, “The Hammer Has Begun Killing the Fly,” a reference to April remarks in which Kagame declared that, “if necessary, we will kill the fly with a hammer.” Kagame was discussing generals who fled after being accused of involvement in grenade attacks earlier this year.

“Once again, Rwandan authorities invoke national security and the legacy of the 1994 genocide to silence one of the few dissenting voices in the shrinking independent Rwandan press,” said CPJ Africa Advocacy Coordinator Mohamed Keita. “We call on authorities to release Agnès Uwimana immediately; she should not go to prison for expressing her views a month before presidential elections.”

Uwimana had been imprisoned in 2007-08, serving a one-year sentence on charges of ethnic divisionism and libel after she published an op-ed on the topic of ethnic violence in Rwanda, according to CPJ research. Last month, Rwanda’s Media High Council Board Chairman Arthur Asiimwe accused Uwimana of publishing “defamatory articles and falsehoods” in a story suggesting that all Rwandans were both victims and perpetrators of the 1994 genocide, according to news reports.

Only a handful of independent newspapers, including Rushyashya, Umusingi, and Gasabo, have continued to publish in Rwanda under increasing self-censorship, according to local journalists.

Date posted: July 12, 2010 Last modified: May 23, 2018 Total views: 134