7 August 2009

Rwanda: Tabloid Faces Three-Month Suspension

Kigali — The Media High Council (MHC) have called for a three-month suspension to local language tabloid,Umuseso, for allegedly going beyond the boundaries of media rules and regulations.

The decision was ignited by a controversial story that Umuseso ran in its issue 365 of July 20-27 that compared President Kagame and former president Habyarimana as twins, alleging that Kagame's regime supersedes Habyarimana's by its "technology in dictatorship."

In a press briefing on Wednesday, MHC Board Chairman, Dr. Venuste Karambizi, said that the conclusion was reached in a meeting they recently held with the newspaper's management to assess their position on the allegations against their ways of reporting which MHC describes as unethical and unprofessional.

"Though we clearly showed them that they had gone beyond the line, they unfortunately ended up defending their flaws in practicing journalism," said Karambizi who was flanked by MHC Executive Secretary, Patrice Mulama.

He further explained that such a piece is considered as contempt to the President of the Republic, which is forbidden by both the country's Constitution and the current media law.

Despite many journalists insisting on the government's move to ban some local media outlets from public functions as one of the reasons that may fuel bad reporting, Patrice Mulama instead located the main problem in reporters' inability to distinguish between story and opinion writing.

"It does not require access to information to run away from defamation," he said while responding to allegations that the government is limiting access to information, which prompts media practitioners to rely on rumours.

Although MHC officials say they have requested the lightest penalty for Umuseso's misconduct, the accused expressed disappointment for the decision and blamed MHC of not giving value to their explanations.

"You did not show our position in your statement, you underestimated our justifications and thus you are misleading people by showing only one side," Didace Gasana, one of Umuseso editors, accused MHC officials at the press conference.

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