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Rwanda: Prosecutors request 10-year jail sentence for exiled newspaper editor

Jean Bosco Gasasira has been in the government’s sights for years and has often been harassed and prosecuted. Umuvugizi was suspended for six months on April 13, 2010.

The Rwandan government has been hounding one of its media bugbears, Jean Bosco Gasasira, editor of the bimonthly newspaper Umuvugizi and one of the country’s most outspoken journalists, Paris-based press freedom group Reporters sans Frontières (RSF) has said.

Prosecutors Thursday asked Rwanda’s supreme court to sentence him to ten years in prison on charges on which the Kigali high court acquitted him last September. The request was made at a hearing at which he was not represented by a lawyer. Gasasira himself fled the country months ago.

Gasasira is charged with spreading rumours that incited civil disobedience, insulting the president and deliberately violating Rwanda’s media law. The supreme court, whose decisions cannot be appealed, is due to announce its verdict on May 27.

Acting on orders from the most senior government officials, Rwanda’s prosecutors are clearly bent on convicting Gasasira at all costs. The aim for President Paul Kagamé’s government is to smear his reputation and make it impossible for him to return. RSF urged the supreme court to follow the high court’s example and dismiss the charges.

Gasasira has been in the government’s sights for years and has often been harassed and prosecuted. Umuvugizi was suspended for six months on April 13, 2010. As tension mounted in the run-up to the August 2010 presidential election, Gasasira went into exile in order to continue working, and launched an online version of the newspaper. He continued to upset the government with the articles he posted online and, on June 3, 2010, the Media High Council set a disturbing precedent for the flow of online information in Rwanda by giving orders to block Umuvugizi’s website.

Two women journalists are currently detained in Rwanda. They are Agnès Uwimana Nkusi, the editor of the privately-owned bimonthly Umurabyo, who was sentenced on February 4 to 17 years in prison, and Saidath Mukakibibi, one of her reporters, who was sentenced to seven years in prison in the same case.

Date posted: April 29, 2011 Last modified: May 23, 2018 Total views: 77