Reporters Without Borders has called for the release of Agnès Uwimana Nkusi, the editor-in-chief of the privately-owned bimonthly "Umurabyo", who has been held at the Muhima district police station in Kigali since 12 January 2007 for publishing an open letter condemning press freedom violations.
"The government cannot dispute claims that it does not tolerate criticism and at the same time systematically target the independent press with all the tools placed at its disposal by draconian legislation," Reporters Without Borders said. "In a democracy, it is not the job of the police to regulate the media. This should be done by independent bodies that everyone respects."
Arrested by police on the orders of the Nyarugenge prosecutor's office on charges of "sectarianism" and "discrimination," Nkusi was interrogated by the deputy prosecutor about an open letter to independent journalists on the subject of press freedom violations, which she published in issue no. 11 of "Umurabyo".
The police said the authorities intended to arrest her sources and bring the same charges against them. Nkusi is due to appear before a judge on 16 January, when a decision will be taken on whether or not she will remain in detention.
"Umurabyo" is one of the few Kigali-based publications that criticise the government. The paper had previously found itself at the centre of a storm of controversy over an article in the preceding issue headlined: "You have problems if you kill a Tutsi, but you go free if you kill a Hutu".
The High Council of the Press, a regulatory body controlled by the government, ruled that "Umurabyo" should be suspended for three months for printing the article. The decision must be confirmed by the Information Ministry to take effect. The confirmation was still pending when Nkusi was arrested.