Status: Not Free
Legal Environment: 25 (of 30)
Political Environment: 34 (of 40)
Economic Environment: 26 (of 30)
Total Score: 85 (of 100)
(Lower scores = freer)

Covers events that took place between January 1, 2008, and December 31, 2008.

  • The constitution provides for freedom of the press "in conditions prescribed by the law," but the media are tightly controlled by the government in practice despite a 2002 law that formally forbids censorship. Libel remains a criminal offense, and there are no laws guaranteeing access to information.

  • The situation deteriorated slightly in 2008 with the passage of a new law banning any criticism of the president, requiring journalists to reveal their sources in court, and stiffening accreditation requirements. To a certain extent, the new requirement for formal training for journalists is a necessary step in a country where fewer than 10 percent of journalists have had such an education and where the quality of reporting is frequently poor. Nonetheless, the new rules are expected to provide the government with another tool for obstructing critical reporting.

  • The risk of imprisonment posed by far the greatest threat to independent journalists in Rwanda. Self-censorship is pervasive.

  • The government made it very difficult for foreign journalists to function inside the country in 2008. In January, a Belgian journalist was denied a visa because of a critical program he had previously put together. Similarly, in May a Ugandan reporter with the Daily Mirror was expelled from the country for what the government considered to be "unobjective reporting." While Radio France Internationale has already been banned from Rwanda, in 2008 the government severely restricted the work of journalists from both Voice of America and the British Broadcasting Corporation, excluding them from government press conferences and denying them access to information.

  • Independent domestic journalists often faced even greater difficulties than their foreign colleagues. In July, the government refused to renew the passport of the managing editor of the newspaper Umuseso and extradited her to Tanzania, where she also has citizenship. The move was thought to be linked to a story Umuseso had published concerning investigations into the assassination of an opposition leader. Separately, two of Umuseso's other editors were each sentenced to one year in prison and a US$2,000 fine for defaming a South African businessman.

  • A number of other journalists were imprisoned, harassed, or forced into hiding as a result of their work in 2008. However, no journalists were imprisoned during the year for "inciting genocide," a charge frequently used in the past to silence critics under the guise of preventing another genocide.

  • The New Times, a private newspaper with close government ties, is the only paper that appears daily. Of the 57 private publications registered with the government, only 37 were operational in 2008, and only 6 appeared on a regular basis. The state broadcasters continue to dominate radio and effectively monopolize television in the country.

  • Internet access was not restricted or monitored by the government, but it was available to only 1 percent of the population in 2008.

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