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OPC Urges Rwanda to End Repressive Policies
H.E. Paul Kagame
Office of the President
P.O. Box 15
Republic of Rwanda
Fax: (011.250) 84390
Last August, we wrote to you protesting the extreme measures taken by your government to silence the press in the run-up to your election. These measures included the shutting down of publications and radio stations, the jailing of journalists and, perhaps, even the murder of one, Jean-Léonard Rugambage, deputy editor of Umuvugizi.
Now we read that two of the journalists arrested last year and jailed since July have been sentenced to lengthy jail terms on charges that would be laughed out of court in a democracy. As you know, the journalists are Agnes Uwimana, editor of the weekly, Umurabyo, sentenced to 17 years, and her deputy, Saidati Mukakibibi, sentenced to 7 years. One can be thankful, perhaps, that these sentences were much less than what the state prosecutor had requested.
The charges against the two reporters, stemming from opinions they had expressed in their newspaper, included inciting civil disobedience, spreading false rumors, insulting the president, and challenging the official view of the genocide. A more tolerant government might have viewed these writings as simply discussing; for example, divisions of opinion within the army and the need for sympathy for the Hutu victims of the genocide.
You may feel that these writings were exaggerated, sensational or inaccurate, but that does not mean they should be suppressed. A free press means a press that can freely and sometimes even irresponsibly criticize a nation’s rulers. The universal desire for freedom includes the desire to have access to different and contradictory points of view, as we are seeing now in Tunisia and Egypt.
The Overseas Press Club of America urges you to reverse your government’s repressive policies towards the media.
Co-Chairmen, Freedom of the Press Committee
H.E. James Kimonyo
Ambassador of Rwanda to the U.S.A.
Embassy of the Republic of Rwanda
1714 New Hampshire Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20009
Fax: (202) 232.4544
Ambassador Eugene Richard Gasana
Permanent Mission of the Republic of Rwanda to the United Nations
124 East 39th Street
New York, NY 10016
Fax: (212) 679.9133
H.E. W. Stuart Symington
U.S. Ambassador to Rwanda
Embassy of the United States of America
#2657 Avenue de la Gendarmerie
Fax: (011.250) 59.67.71/ 65.91
(OR: P.O. Box 28)
Agence Rwandaise d’Information
Boulevard de U’muganda
P.O. Box 453
Fax: (011.250) 58.72.16
College House, Koinange Str.
P.O. Box 46356
Fax: (011.254.20) 225.2373
afrol News Lesotho, c/o Mopheme
1st Floor Allied Building, Room 7
Fax: (011.266.2) 231.1670.
(Or: P.O. Box 14184)