18 July 2012

Rwanda: Police Arrest Political Reporter in Kigali

press release

Nairobi — Police in Kigali are holding a newspaper reporter whose employer had earlier filed a complaint alleging that security agents had seized and interrogated him, according to news reports.

On Tuesday, police arrested Idriss Gasana Byiringiro, a political reporter for the private weekly Chronicles, on suspicion of providing false information, the paper reported. The journalist has not been allowed access to his family or a lawyer, according to news reports and local journalists. No formal charges have been publicly disclosed.

Christopher Kayumba, the managing consultant of Chronicles, said the reporter is being held at the Kicukiro police station. Police had supposedly invited Byiringiro to follow up on allegations against the Rwandan security police for interrogating him illegally in June, according to news reports. CPJ's calls to the police were not answered.

Byiringiro said that on June 15 he was interrogated by four individuals who claimed to work for Rwanda's security services, according to Chronicles and news reports. The men confiscated the journalist's phone and laptop and detained him overnight in the town of Nyamata, a town 19 miles (30 kilometers) south of Kigali, the reports said. Kayumba said the men forced Byiringiro to open his emails and questioned him about his sources and the funding of his newspaper. The newspaper wrote a letter of complaint to concerned authorities, the paper said, and Kayumba met with the Inspector General of Police to request an investigation.

In the weeks that followed the interrogation, Byiringiro received intimidating text messages and a threatening unsigned letter, Kayumba said.

"We are very concerned that Idriss Gasana Byiringiro was arrested after reporting a crime that potentially involved authorities," said CPJ East Africa Consultant Tom Rhodes. "Police should immediately explain the basis for the arrest and allow Byiringiro access to family members and legal counsel."

Byiringiro has written a number of sensitive stories, local journalists said, although it was unclear what recent story could have triggered the reported June 15 interrogation.

Rwandan journalists have been harassed for their reporting in the past, according to CPJ research. Authorities arrested community radio presenter Habarugira Epaphrodite in late April for misusing a word during a broadcast on memorial events for the 1994 Rwandan genocide, according to local journalists. Epaphrodite wrote an official apology to authorities, who said he had used a phrase deemed offensive to the survivors and victims of the genocide, according to local reports. The verdict for the case is expected on July 30.

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