10 July 2010

Rwanda: Umurabyo Editor Arrested

Kigali — Police have arrested the controversial editor of a Kinyarwanda bi-monthly tabloid, Umurabyo, Agnes Nkusi Uwimana, on charges related to violation and abuse of laws.

According to the Police Spokesman, Eric Kayiranga; "Uwimana is accused of inciting violence in public, discrimination, sectarianism and Genocide denial."

"We will forward her case to the prosecution on Monday morning," he added.

It is not the first time Uwimana has been arrested. In 2007, she was sentenced to one year in jail over related charges, a sentence she served before she returned into the practice.

Her arrest follows a series of warnings from the Media High Council. According to the Executive Secretary of the media watchdog, Patrice Mulama, the arrest of Uwimana did not come as a surprise.

"The Media High Council was on the verge of taking a final decision on Uwimana's publications. Before the Police apprehended her, we engaged her several times and pointed out the violations which she admitted, but deliberately continued committing them," said Mulama.

He singled out Umurabyo issue number 27 of May 2010 in which Uwimana published articles inciting public violence.

"We summoned her, showed her how she had violated laws and ethics and all the factual errors that were in her articles," he said.

Mulama added that despite the Council's efforts to assist Uwimana streamline her reporting; the owner-cum-reporter went ahead and published more articles that clearly called for a public disorder.

"We summoned her again and she admitted that her publications were based on rumours. She apologized and consented having published several articles that she could not defend. She claimed that the reason why she continuously made the same mistakes was because she lacked professional skills," Mulama said.

He added that the Media High Council ordered her to publish an apology which she did not.

Part of the accusations against Uwimana is publishing defaming information against the Head of State. A case in point, in her latest publication, Issue Number 29, on page four, Uwimana equates President Paul Kagame with Germany's Nazi leader, Adolf Hitler.

Historically, the media played a crucial role in inciting the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi while the international media either ignored or seriously misconstrued events on the ground.

The print media in Rwanda is believed to have started hate speech against Tutsis, and according to pundits, Uwimana's publications are similar to those that circulated before the Genocide.

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