Prosecutor calls for more than two years against journalist
|Publisher||Reporters Without Borders|
|Publication Date||10 November 2009|
|Cite as||Reporters Without Borders, Prosecutor calls for more than two years against journalist, 10 November 2009, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4afd115a1a.html [accessed 17 December 2017]|
|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 today voiced outrage at a prosecution call to permanently shut down the independent bi-monthly Umuvugizi and to sentence its editor, Jean Bosco Gasasira, to a 26-month jail sentence for libel.
The worldwide press freedom organisation urged the judge who is due to rule in the case on 13 November not to follow the recommendation made on 26 October by the judge, Silas Nsengiyumva, of the Kagarama lower court in the capital Kigali.
The editor is on trial for "defamation, insult and interference in private life via the press", based on a suit brought by Kigali prosecutor, Jean Bosco Mutangana and Dr Diane Gashumba, President of the National Council of Women. Both plaintiffs are seeking damages of 110 millions Rwandan francs (about 200,000 dollars) over an article in Umuvugizi written by the editor, claiming the existence of an extra-marital affair between the two.
"The Rwandan authorities are exploiting the Jean Bosco Gasasira case - a dispute between a journalist and a judge - to attack the newspaper which they already have in their sights, to reduce pluralism in the press still further", the organisation said.
"We urge the Kagarama court to show wisdom and discernment. In Rwanda, as elsewhere, we are convinced that imprisonment and the permanent closure of a newspaper are disproportionate and pointless punishments in a case of defamation".
Reporters Without Borders has seen a copy of a letter sent to the president of the Kigali Supreme Court by Gasasira's lawyer that reads: "The court will not allow the defendant to produce evidence of the truth of the supposedly defamatory information". It added: "The court is preparing to convict Gasasira, to make jurisprudence and warn off other journalists from venturing into similar exposés in the future."
A clampdown is under way against media in Rwanda in the run-up to presidential elections in 2010, typified by the jailing of journalists Asumani Niyonambaza and Amani Ntakundi, and suspensions of the independent weekly Umuseso and Kinyarwanda-language programmes put out by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC).