Nairobi — An appellate court judge in the Rwandan capital, Kigali, on Monday upheld the criminal conviction of an editor who is serving a one-year prison sentence in connection with an opinion column, according to local journalists.
A judge presiding in the Gasabo Intermediate Court said Stanley Gatera, editor of Kinyarwanda-language independent weekly Umusingi, should be held accountable for a June 2012 opinion piece that suggested that men might regret marrying an ethnic Tutsi woman solely for her beauty, according to local journalists.
Police arrested Gatera, 22, in August 2012 after they said they received complaints from Tutsi women's groups. In November 2012, a lower court convicted Gatera on charges of "inciting divisionism" and "gender discrimination." The author of the piece fled the country amid the controversy and was never charged.
Gatera's defense argued that the journalist should not be punished for a column he did not write, local journalists said. The defense also noted the journalist had published an apology in the following issue. It was not immediately clear whether Gatera's defense team will pursue its appeal to the Supreme Court, local journalists said.
"This opinion piece might have offended readers, but that should not constitute a criminal offense," CPJ East Africa Consultant Tom Rhodes said. "This ruling sends the message that Rwandan journalists must censor opinions if they want to stay out of jail."
Authorities have routinely targeted Umusingi and its journalists in recent years. In early 2011, the country's sole printing house, which is government owned, refused to print an edition of the paper that carried an interview with a dissident former Rwandan colonel, according to news reports. The paper's founder and former managing director Nelson Gatsimbazi, fled the country in August 2011 after being told of his impending arrest on charges of divisionism based on a complaint filed by another journalist in 2008, local journalists told CPJ. In December 2010, the presidential security advisor publicly accused Gatsimbazi of working with "enemies of the state," according to news reports.
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