Rwanda: Journalist Jean Paul Nkundineza Faces 10-Year Prison Sentence

In Kigali, Rwanda, on March 20, 2024, the prosecution has requested a 10-year prison sentence and a fine of 5 million Rwandan Francs for journalist Jean Paul Nkundineza. He is charged with multiple offenses, including public insult, harassment of a whistleblower, use of threats, and dissemination of false information.

The prosecution argued that the accumulation of crimes warrants a sentence of 10 years imprisonment and a fine. They highlighted Nkundineza’s use of various YouTube broadcasts to commit these acts over different occasions.

Evidence against Nkundineza includes his admission during interrogation that some of his reports aimed to increase his broadcasts’ popularity, though they constituted defamation and resulted in public mistrust towards Mutesi Jolly.

Moreover, through his platform 3D TV Plus, Nkundineza implicated Mutesi Jolly in the arrest and subsequent five-year imprisonment of Ishimwe Dieudonné, also known as Prince Kid, previously in charge of organizing Miss Rwanda. The prosecution detailed how Nkundineza insulted and threatened Mutesi Jolly, blaming her for reporting on Ishimwe Dieudonne’s alleged crimes and questioning her integrity.

During his appeal, Nkundineza requested to be released on bail, citing unspecified health issues and asserting his known identity and readiness to comply with court orders if released. He later acknowledged that his emotions influenced one of his broadcasts, which he partially retracted after realizing its potential for controversy, removing the problematic section just an hour after it was uploaded to his YouTube channel.

Nkundineza also stated that he harbors no ill will towards Miss Mutesi Jolly and has no intention of mentioning her negatively, emphasizing that the legal proceedings against Ishimwe Dieudonné have concluded.

This case comes amidst growing concerns over freedom of expression and the treatment of journalists in Rwanda. The request for a substantial prison sentence for Nkundineza raises questions about the balance between protecting individual rights and the state’s handling of dissent and media freedom. Critics of the Rwandan government, including President Paul Kagame, often highlight such cases as indicative of the broader challenges facing the country’s democratic and human rights environment.