20 July 2012

Rwanda: I Faked Kidnap to Get Story - Journalist

Idriss Gasana Byiringiro, a journalist working with The Chronicles, a weekly English newspaper based in Rwanda, yesterday said that he faked his own kidnap as part of research for a story.

Byiringiro's plan backfired on him after a police investigation that was commissioned to look into his alleged kidnap and harassment unearthed the details of his plot.

Byiringiro had claimed that on July 15, at around 3pm, he was forced into a Toyota Land Cruiser by four security operatives and driven to Nyamata, in Bugesera District, a thirty-minute drive from the Kigali where he was allegedly kidnapped from. He was then held for the night and released the following morning after being interrogated.

He was arrested on Tuesday and during a news conference held yesterday, Briringiro, who is also a third-year Journalism student at the National University of Rwanda explained why he faked his own kidnap.

"This was my plan - as a journalism student I wanted to investigate if this profession (journalism) is feasible in Rwanda or if it's true that the government harasses journalists as indicated in international reports," he said.

Byiringiro, who wore a smile throughout the news briefing had earlier asked the journalists why only a few of them turned up to hear his story yet many were invited.

He explained that the whole idea was to write an investigative story for his newspaper as well as include the findings to support his academic research proposal.

Police is expected to press charges today.

"I thought I would not be prosecuted, if I told them (police) the truth," he noted, adding that he was contended with his investigations.

As part of his "research" Byiringiro disclosed that the alleged threats he received as text messages on his phone were sent by him. He bought SIM cards and used them to send the messages to his number, which he then forwarded to his boss, Christopher Kayumba, as proof that he was being intimidated.

Kayumba is the Managing Consultant of The Chronicles.

"But he [Kayumba] was not aware of my plans," he added.

Efforts to reach Kayumba were futile by press time as he was not picking our calls.

Kayumba officially logged a complaint and in a letter to the President, called for an investigation into the reporter's claims.

According to Police, one of the red flags was when they discovered that on the night of the alleged kidnap, they found evidence indicating that Byiringiro actually used his phone to call his friends yet he reported that his phone and laptop were confiscated at the time.

Emmanuel Mugisha, the Executive Secretary of the Media High Council, described Byiringiro's investigative methods as "very wrong and unprofessional."

"It is very wrong, if what he says is true. As a professional journalist, whatever you are doing to provide your consumers with information, it must be done fairly and objectively. You cannot be a case study for a story...that is not a professional way of doing things," Mugisha said.

According to Article 579 of the Penal Code, if found guilty, Byiringiro risks a prison sentence ranging between two to five years and a fine between Rwf100,000 and one million.

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