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» 28.06.2010 - Arrests follow Rwanda editor's killing
» 14.04.2010 - Rwanda press gagged in run-up to polls
» 24.02.2010 - Three slapped with jail terms
» 12.05.2009 - Authorities ready for BBC suspension talks
» 27.04.2009 - Rwanda suspends BBC broadcast for being bias
» 22.10.2008 - Rwandan reporter released after 14 years detention
» 13.11.2007 - Rwanda journalist acquitted of genocide
» 28.08.2007 - Rwandan editor faces "dubious" rape charges

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Rwanda editor charged with "divisionism"

afrol News, 16 November - The editor of 'Umuseso', a Rwandan language independent weekly, was tried today on criminal charges of defamation and "divisionism" in connection with an article that accused parliamentary Vice President Denis Polisi of plotting to seize power. The trial is widely seen as an effort to silence the remnants of Rwanda's independent press.

A verdict in the controversial case is expected next week, following the one-day trial of editor Charles Kabonero, who is also director of the Rwanda Independent Media Group (RIMEG), the newspaper's owner. The prosecution asked for a prison sentence of four years and a fine of 300,000 Rwandan francs (about US$ 526), according to local journalists.

Vice President Polisi filed a criminal complaint after 'Umuseso' reported speculation about his political aspirations and divisions in the ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF). RPF officials and the Rwandan government are not used to read critical articles about themselves in the national press, which is dominated by pro-government publications.

'Umuseso' staff members say they were also harassed and threatened after the August article appeared, prompting editor Kabonero to go into hiding for about 10 days. Mr Kabonero at the time stated that he feared for his life after receiving death threats.

The case against Mr Kabonero has caused local and international protest. The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPF) condemned the trial, saying journalists should not be criminally prosecuted for reporting critically about government officials.

- We are deeply disturbed by the unjustified threat of imprisonment that hangs over our colleague, Charles Kabonero, CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper said in a statement today. "Governments should not use criminal laws to suppress critical reporting," she added.

Rwandan authorities have frequently targeted 'Umuseso', the country's sole independent newspaper. Robert Sebufirira, former managing editor of the newspaper, and Elly Macdowell Kalisa, the former deputy editor, fled Rwanda in February after getting a series of death threats they believe came from senior members of the government security services. The threats followed articles in 'Umuseso' on alleged corruption by senior officials.

Another former editor, Ismail Mbonigaba, was imprisoned for more than a month in January 2003 and charged with "inciting division and discrimination" for reporting that former Prime Minister Faustin Twagarimungu would run against President Paul Kagame in elections.

Mr Mbonigaba was never tried. In May 2001, John Mugabi, editor of English language newspaper 'Rwanda Newsline', which gave rise to Umuseso, sought asylum abroad after being threatened over articles on the Rwandan military's resource exploitation in eastern Congo Kinshasa (DRC).

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