Independent weekly threatened with being closed for good
|Publisher||Reporters Without Borders|
|Publication Date||4 February 2010|
|Cite as||Reporters Without Borders, Independent weekly threatened with being closed for good, 4 February 2010, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4b71212629.html [accessed 23 November 2014]|
|Disclaimer||This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.|
Reporters Without Borders is very concerned about the fate of the Umuseso, one of Rwanda's leading independent weeklies, which could be closed down as a result of case brought by the public prosecutor's office accusing it of libel and invasion of privacy for reporting that a government minister was having an extra-marital affair with the mayor of Kigali. A neighbourhood court in Nyarugenge is due to issue its verdict on 22 February.
"We urge the judge to keep a cool head and to issue a fair verdict that respects press freedom," Reporters Without Borders said. "The court must first establish whether the defendants are guilty of libel and if they are, there are much more appropriate punishments than jailing them and closing their newspaper for good."
Reporters Without Borders fears the gradual erosion of the limited freedom available to Rwanda's privately-owned media in the run-up to the presidential election scheduled for August.
On 27 January, the Kigali prosecutor's office requested Umuseso's closure and one-year jail sentences for its publisher, Charles Kabonero, its editor, Didas Gasana, and one of its reporters, Richard Kayigamba, for an article published in issue No. 382 in November about cabinet affairs minister Protais Musoni and Kigali mayor Aisa Kirabo Kacyira. The prosecutor's office also asked that they be fined 5 million Rwandan francs (9,000 dollars).
Kayigamba claimed in the article, which was accompanied by photos of the minister and the mayor, that he caught them together in a hotel. The public prosecutor's office brought the case after the two officials denied the report.
The one-year suspended prison sentences which Umuseso's publisher and editor received in an unrelated case brought by a wealthy businessman, Tribert Rujugiro, is meanwhile due to be examined by an appeal court on 11 February.
Rwanda was ranked 157th out of 175 countries in the 2009 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index. Eritrea, Somalia and Equatorial Guinea were the only African countries that received worse rankings.