'3 Rwanda Journalists Arrested In One Week'

Reporters without borders report today Wednesday three journalists were arrested in a period of one week, find a development that raises questions about the government’s respect of press freedoms.

The media watchdog seriously calls upon government to give satisfactory answers as to why persecuting journalists is becoming routine.

“Reporters Without Borders condemns the arrests of three journalists in the space of a week in Kigali. Two were released yesterday morning but the third one is still detained,” the media watchdog says in a statement released a few hours ago.

The latest journalist to be arrested was Joseph Bideri, the editor of the New Times, a privately-owned daily that supports the ruling party, the statement reads.

“He was arrested by the Kigali police on 14 November and was freed yesterday morning. A recent series of articles in the newspaper described a case of embezzlement in the construction of the Rukarara hydro-electric dam in the west of the country. A report about Bideri’s arrest was posted on the New Times website yesterday morning and was then quickly removed,” says the watchdog.

“Jean Gualbert Burasa, the editor of the independent bimonthly Rushyashya, was arrested by the Kigali police on 11 November. According to the police, he was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol. But his arrest may have been prompted by the publication of an article about the desecration of former social affairs minister Christine Nyatanyi’s grave. The journalist was freed on 15 November.”

The third journalist is René Anthère Rwanyange, who has also been held since last week. The police say he was arrested for the theft of a laptop computer but he has not yet been charged.

Several independent-minded journalists have fled Kigali for security reasons and some have been trailed by the country’s security operatives in neighbouring countries.

“This series of arrests has again highlighted the extreme vulnerability of journalists in Rwanda. We call on the authorities to publicly explain why these journalists have been held, and to release the third one immediately,” the statement reads in part.

“We also urge the government to move forward with its proposed reform of the press law, which hopefully will protect journalists from arbitrary arrest and detention.”

According to internationally-reputed organisation, the three arrests took place just as the Third Annual National Dialogue on Media was about to begin in Kigali.

Organized by the Media High Council, this two-day conference is supposed to promote an environment that favours press freedom and allows the media to operate in a free, independent and professional manner.


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