Publication of a Rwandan newspaper has been voluntarily suspended after senior government officials made threats against journalists on a programme broadcast on state-owned TV and radio.
On a programme examining security, justice and the media, interior minister Shiekh Musa Fazil Harelimana announced the government would take ‘measures’against journalists who try to ‘overthrow’the government.
He also said police would arrest journalists who published an official document until he identified the source of the leak – thought to be a clear allusion to the recent publication of a classified defence ministry document by Umuseso, a privately owned weekly.
Umuseso publisher Charles Kabonero told Reporters Without Borders that ministers’ comments were intimidating for journalists and their sources, who would be afraid of passing on documents in the future.
‘We fear for our lives,’he said. ‘When members of the government calls us enemies of the country it serves as a green light to those inclined to go after us, as they can now claim they are protecting the country’s interests.”
The incident comes in the closing stages of the trial of Colonel Tharcisse Renzaho, former Prefect of Rwandan capital Kigali. He is charged with three counts of genocide and of using Radio Rwanda to broadcast orders to soldiers, the militia and local citizens when one million ethnic Tutsis were killed.
In a report on the country this year, RWB said President Paul Kagame and his government ‘have never accepted that the press should be guaranteed genuine freedom”.