President Paul Kagame used his August address before the East African Community Media Summit to cast the domestic press “as an important partner in our country’s development” while accusing Western journalists of misrepresentation that “derails our progress or even fuels conflict.” The dual theme--calling on domestic journalists to advance a government agenda while depicting international news media as adversaries--has become common among regional leaders. But critical journalists are seen as foes, not partners, by Kagame’s government. The authorities have engaged in several years of aggressive harassment of critical journalists, forcing many into exile, landing some in prison, and sowing self-censorship among the rest. CPJ identified three imprisoned journalists when it conducted its annual worldwide survey on December 1, and at least two others who were detained for significant periods during the year. Red lines appeared to be easily crossed and harshly punished: The authorities detained a radio presenter for nearly 100 days after the journalist mistakenly used a phrase deemed offensive to survivors of the 1994 genocide. Although Kagame spoke in support of media reform at the summit, three bills backed by the Rwandan press remained stalled in parliament. The bills would provide access to government information, create a media ombudsman independent of the government, and establish a public broadcaster.
Facing criminal prosecutions and harassment, numerous Rwandan journalists fled the country between 2007 and 2012.
Among those being held was Stanley Gatera, editor of the private weekly Umusingi. Gatera was serving a one-year jail term on charges of inciting divisionism and gender discrimination. The authorities arrested Gatera in connection with a June column that suggested men might regret marrying Tutsi women solely for their beauty.
Hopes that an amended penal code would lift restrictions on the press were dashed in June. The revised code includes penalties of up to 10 years in prison for supposed media crimes.
|Journalists face up to nine years in prison under a broadly written provision banning material seen as denying or "rudely minimizing" the Rwandan genocide.|
|Journalists face up to 10 years in prison under a provision banning material seen as undermining public order or territorial integrity. Fines up to $24,000 may also be imposed. The amount is prohibitive in a country with an average annual income of $570, according to World Bank data.|
The new broadcasters join a field of 13 other private stations. But few provide critical news coverage, according to CPJ research.
|The Kenyan-based Nation Media Group launches KFM Rwanda, a Kinyarwandan- and English-language radio station.|
|Tele 10 and Family TV become the first Rwandan-run private TV stations to be launched since 1994.|
|A South African cable business channel, CNBC, begins operations.|
Do you believe the free flow of information must be protected? Sign the #RightToReport petition and demand that President Obama immediately:
1. Issue a presidential policy directive prohibiting the hacking and surveillance of journalists and media organizations.
2. Limit aggressive prosecutions that ensnare journalists and intimidate whistleblowers.
3. Prevent the harassment of journalists at the U.S. border.
Or click here to see the full petition, and join leading journalists like Christiane Amanpour, The Guardian’s Alan Rusbridger, Editor of the AP Kathleen Carroll, and Arianna Huffington in signing on.