Reporters Without Borders is worried by the deteriorating environment
for the media in Rwanda in recent weeks. In the past few weeks, a
journalist has been arrested, at least two others have fled abroad,
and a news website has been hacked. While apparently not linked, these
events have helped to fuel a climate of fear and self-censorship among
Cassien Ntamuhura, a journalist at the Christian radio station Amazing
Grace, appeared at a trial hearing in Kigali on 24 April on charges of
endangering state security, complicity in terrorism, and treason.
Three other defendants including the very popular singer, Kizito
Mihigo, appeared with him in court.
Colleagues say Ntamuhura never had any problems until he was reported
missing on 7 April. The police announced on 14 April that he was in
their custody without saying where or when he was arrested, leading
the Rwanda Media Commission to assume he was held illegally from 7 to
Nonetheless, the RMC subsequently reported on 17 April that his arrest
was not linked to his work as a journalist. The prosecutor's office
asked the court to keep Ntamuhura and the other defendants in
detention until another hearing scheduled for today.
The US State Department has asked the Rwandan authorities to respect
media freedom and ensure that Ntamuhanga, Mihigo and the other
defendants get "minimum fair trial guarantees." It also stressed the
important of "allowing for freedom of expression in a democratic
Reporters Without Borders has meanwhile learned that at least two
other journalists have had to flee the country in recent weeks.
Stanley Gatera, the editor of the independent news website Umusingi,
was arrested on April 17 on charges of attempted extortion. According
to the information obtained by Reporters Without Borders, he was in a
café when a person approached him and slipped an envelope in his
pocket, whereupon three plainclothes policemen immediately arrested
him and took him to the police station.
After holding him for six hours, the police escorted him to his home
where a policeman told him a plan was afoot to murder him and his
family. The journalist fled the country the next day. He is currently
Gatera said the threats and intimidation could be linked to an
interview he gave to Al-Jazeera's "People and Power" programme in
March in which he talked about the difficulties for journalists
working in Rwanda. He previously served a one-year jail sentence in
2012 on charges of creating divisions and "gender-based
His brother, Nelson Gatsimbazi, Umusingi's founder, fled the country
in 2011, when he was also prosecuted on a charge of "creating
The other journalist to flee in the past few weeks is Eric Udahemuka,
who left the country with his family on 1 April, a week before the
ceremony marking the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide.
After being followed, threatened, attacked, robbed and subjected to
other kinds of harassment since 2012, it seems a series of articles in
the newspaper Isimbi in January and March prompted an increase in the
He told Reporters Without Borders that two men who had been following
him for months warned him that he could be killed at any moment
because of his articles criticizing the Rwandese government.
Finally, the investigative news website Ireme has been the victim of a
cyber-attack since 15 April, when hackers replaced its usual content
with outrageous material and doctored photos relating to the Mihigo
The website's editor, John Williams Ntwali, who was in Uganda when it
was hacked, reacted immediately on social networks, explaining that he
has lost control of the site and disowning the content currently
On his return to Rwanda, he wrote to the police, the prosecutor's
office and the Rwanda Media Commission denying rumours that he was on
the run in Uganda or in any way responsible for the current content,
as he was very concerned about the possibility that the authorities
would believe the rumours.
Asked who he thought was behind the hacking of Ireme, he told
Reporters Without Borders that he ruled out no possibilities but
suspected it was designed to punish the site for being outspoken.
Ruled by a government that often violates the public's right to
information, Rwanda is ranked 162nd out of 180 countries in the 2014
Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.
REPORTERS SANS FRONTIÈRES | REPORTERS WITHOUT BORDERS
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Tel : (33) 1 44 83 84 76
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