28 July 2011

Rwanda: Ishema Chief Editor Resigns

The Chief Editor of a local Kinyarwanda newspaper, Ishema, Didas Niyifasha, has resigned following the publication of an article that defamed the President and undermined the government by his paper.

Addressing a news conference yesterday, Niyifasha said that issue no. 24 that contained the defamatory article was published without his consent.

"I have stepped down because the entire issue was published without my approval as a chief editor, I don't want to fall into another trap like this, in case it happens in future," he said.

"We used to have meetings with our Managing Director before publishing any issue, but this time there wasn't any meeting. As the chief editor I did not pass through the stories before they were published."

Niyifasha said he forwarded copies of his resignation letter to the Media High council and Rwanda Journalists Association.

"I didn't know how the paper was prepared and published, I bought a copy of the paper and I asked my self how could the managing director publish the issue without my approval? I have resigned because of that," he said.

"Gakire (the Managinging Director) should have called me and we discuss the stories in the paper before being published, hiding it from me showed that he no longer trusts me as the chief editor."

Speaking to The New Times, Fidele Gakire, the Managing Director, admitted that what he did was a serious offence.

"The procedure involved in publishing the issue was not up to the standard and I totally apologize for that," he said.

"I didn't follow the editorial procedure. There was no coordination between me and my editorial team and I regret the incident that resulted into publishing the blasphemous article."

The Article in question ran with the by-line Kamikazi, and when Gakire was asked who wrote it, he referred to the author as a regular columnist from Canada who goes by the name Denise Kamikazi.

Responding to a question as to why Ishema, a Kinyarwanda newspaper, chose to run an article in English, he said there was no time to translate the text.

The president of the Rwanda Editors Forum (REFO), Bosco Rushingabigwi, pointed out that this is a sign of the unprofessionalism that has been going on.

"Newspaper owners bypass their editors and go ahead and publish articles without them knowing yet they are legally responsible. It is an unfortunate practice that has been going on," Rushingabigwi said.

"It is unacceptable. This is a shame and portrays a bad image of the media."

The REFO president noted that not only was the article defamatory, it also ignored the basics of journalism, since it was a text picked up from elsewhere with no attribution.

Rushingabigwi commended Rwandan journalists who came out to condemn the newspaper and its owners, saying that the practitioners are beginning to differentiate between acceptable and unacceptable ways.

"Before it was the government, now all practitioners have come together to address the situation," he said.

Ishema was, on Tuesday, suspended for six months, from association membership by the Forum for Private Newspapers (FPN), after it published a the article.

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