Rwanda: Journalists become latest collateral victims in the fight against Corona virus Pandemic
“A free press is the most dangerous foe of tyranny. Where men have the habit of liberty the Press will continue to be the vigilant guardian of the rights of the ordinary citizen”. Winston Churchill
Six journalists, including Theo Nsengimana of Umubavu TV, Ivan Mugisha of the East African, John Gahamanyi of the New Times, Saul Butera of Bloomberg, Valentin Muhirwa and David Byiringiro of AFRIMAX TV were arrested on Thursday 8 April 2020. On this April 15, 2020 another one, Niyonsenga Dieudonné alias Cyuma and his driver Komezusenge Fidèlewere also arrested. They are all detained at the Remera Police station, notorious for “suicides of government critics by hanging or being shot trying to disarm a police guard”. The high-profile cases include Kizito Mihigo, Lawyer Donat Mutunzi and Dr Emmanuel Gasakure. We hope and pray that none of these journalists will be found hanged in his cell or die of corona virus because of unhealthy conditions of detention at the station.
One of the journalists who has been arrested, Mr Theo Nsengimana of Umubavu TV had earlier confided to a colleague, who spoke on condition of anonymity with a muffled voice to avoid identification by Rwanda secret security agents, that he was living under constant fear because he refused to give into threats of the dreaded Rwandan secret security services asking him to abandon his profession.
Ruling party RPF zealots, known as “social media influencers”, including Immaculee Ingabire, Head of Transparency International in Rwanda, had recently targeted Theo Nsengimana: enemy of the state, agent of enemies of the country, person to be locked up or sent to a mental hospital etc…(Seeannex below). Such attacks are usually a prelude to arrest, enforced disappearance or ending up “committing suicide by hanging” or “being shot dead by a policeman while trying to snatch his gun”.
The FDU-Inkingi have taken the allegations of the Rwandan government with a grain of salt and strongly believe that some of these journalists are detained because they expose the failure of the half-baked measures taken by the government to contain Covid-19 or for having aired the concerns of the people. We believe it is also intended to warn other journalists who might be tempted to be advocates of the ordinary people and hence tarnishing the image of the country among the population and especially abroad. As usual “show trials” are likely to follow in the Kangaroo Courtwith coached witnesses.
It is quite contradictory and highly suspicious that while the government is advised to reduce the prison population to fight the spread of Covid-19, it is putting these harmless journalists at risk of corona virus at the overcrowded police station on flimsy charges and waiting sine die for investigations to be completed.
Paradoxically, the Rwandan Media Commission (RMC), which is supposed to be a defender of press freedom, hastened to plea for the Kigali regime with the press release RMC /C/002/04/2020/Barore Cléophas dated the 13thApril 2020, relaying its views on these arrests without any cross-checks. FDU-Inkingi finds this RMC attitude very reprehensible and unworthy of an organisation that is supposed to be an independent media regulatory body guaranteeing press freedom.
The FDU-Inkingi would like to condemn the exposure of these journalists at risk and call the Rwandan government to end its intimidation against journalists. We call on friends of Rwanda and peace-loving people to put pressure of the Rwandan government to release these journalists.
We would like to express our solidarity with these journalists and to thank them for their courage and professionalism refusing to be drawn into sectarian politics being preached by some power hungry and heartless politicians.
We strongly believe that freedom of expression is the guardian of other freedom and the vision of our party FDU-Inkingi is to restore these freedoms.
Done in Rouen, April 15, 2020
Commissioner FDU-INKINGI in charge of Information and Communication
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