- A court in Kigali has sentenced three journalists to prison over a story reporting on an extramarital affair between the mayor of the capital, Kigali, and a government minister.
Committee to Protect Journalists said Magistrate Fidele Bazihana of Nyarugenge convicted former Editor Charles Kabonero, Acting Editor-in-Chief Didas Gasana, and reporter Richard Kayigamba of the private weekly Umuseso in absentia of invading the privacy of Minister Protais Musoni and Kigali Mayor Aisa Kirabo Kacyira.
The media watchdog has condemned the sentences against the trio saying it was yet another sign that the Rwandan regime was trying to muzzle its critics.
Mr Kabonero was sentenced to a year in jail, while Mr Gasana and Mr Kayigamba were both handed six-month terms. All three are free pending an appeal. The three were also ordered to pay damages of 1 million Rwandan francs (US$1,700) to the two officials.
Mr Kabonero and Mr Gasana are already appealing a suspended two-year prison term from a 2008 conviction for slander over a story about tax evasion charges against businessman Tribert Rujugiro in South Africa.
“These prison sentences are deeply disturbing because they reveal a pattern of using criminal defamation to silence critical journalism in Rwanda,” said CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney. “We urge the court of appeals to overturn this ruling.”
Umuseso, known for its critical coverage of the government, was the first to report the allegations in November 2009, according to local journalists.
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