Rwandan Magazine Suspended After Publishing Article Against Kagame

by Caitlyn Christensen    /  September 15, 2011  / 1 Comment

Ishema, a Rwandan bimonthly magazine, has been suspended for a month after an opinion piece in mid-July called President Paul Kagame a “sociopath.”

Written under the pseudonym “Kamikaze,” the opinion piece was ruled libelous by Rwanda’s High Media Council. On July 25, the Forum of Private Newspapers suspended publisher Fidele Gakire from their organization for six months and plainclothes men seized copies of Ishema from Rwandan vendors. Three days later, Chief Editor Didas Niyitasha resigned from Ishema, saying the opinion piece was published without his knowledge or consent.

Ishema followed up the opinion article with a full-edition apology to Kagame the following month. Entitled “Imbabazi” (Kimyarwandan for “sorry”), issue no. 25 consisted entirely of old, reprinted articles in praise of Kagame’s administration. The front cover depicted a submissive Gakire bowing beneath Kagame’s extended hand.

Ishema, Rwanda

Cover of Ishema, issue 25

On August 31, Reporters Without Borders stated Gakire received serious threats in the days after the “Imbabazi” edition, a claim the publisher denied to Kimyarwandan newspaper the New Times in late July. “Ishema’s decision reflects the unease that independent publications often feel in Rwanda,” Reporters Without Borders said.

In 2003 Paul Kagame was officially elected president of Rwanda after serving as vice president and the country’s de facto leader for seven years prior. Last summer he was re-elected in a campaign that shut down news outlets that reported on domestic dissent.

As part of that campaign, in April 2010, Rwanda’s High Media Council suspended two weeklies, Umuvugizi and Umuseso, for their criticism of Kagame in the months leading up to the election. This July, the Supreme Court sentenced Jean-Bosco Gasasiva, Umuvugizi’s exiled online editor, to two years and six months in prison. Umuseso’s editors are also in exile.

The Economist has called Kagame a “flawed hero,” for restricting the press even more than Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe . In the May 2011 London Financial Times, Kagame said that no one “in the media, UN, [or] human rights organizations has any moral right whatsoever to level any accusations” against him or Rwanda, an allusion to the globe’s minimal reaction during the country’s 1994 genocide. Later that month, Kagame engaged in a social media squabble with journalist Ian Birrell over the freedom of Rwanda’s press.

On Tuesday, September 13, Reporters Without Borders demonstrated in Paris against Kagame’s visit to France, wearing red gags to protest his violations against freedom of the press.

Reporters without Borders Coverage on Kagame

Country profile on Rwanda

Kagame’s visits Paris

The Rwanda page

President Kagame’s portrait as a predator of press freedom

About the Author

View all articles by Caitlyn Christensen

One Comment on "Rwandan Magazine Suspended After Publishing Article Against Kagame"

  1. Efia September 16, 2011 at 10:48 am ·

    This is a flagrantly dishonest that paints a truly inaccurate picture of the media in Rwanda and how Kagame relates to the press.

    For the reality on the situation what your own diplomats/spies have to say in leaked cables

    http://wikileaks.org/cable/2006/05/06KIGALI480.html

    “Press freedom in Rwanda–despite the legacy of a media tainted by complicity in the genocide and lingering mistrust between the government and journalists–has in recent years taken root.”

    “independent outlets frequently criticize the government and rarely face legal repercussions for their reporting.”

    “The greatest obstacle to further development of press freedom in Rwanda now probably is structural weaknesses within the independent media for which there are no immediate remedies”

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