Rwanda: The coronavirus pandemic is not an excuse to trample on freedom of press.

NIYONSENGA Dieudonné for Ishema TV (left) and Théoneste Nsengimana of Umubavu Tv (right)

The Global Campaign for Rwandan Human Rights strongly condemn the recent spate of arbitrary arrest of Journalists that has left seven of them behind bars for doing their professional job and call for their immediate release.

The seven journalists recently arrested are Mr Theo Nsengimana of Umubavu TV, Ivan Mugisha of the East African, John Gahamanyi of the New Times, Saul Butera of Bloomberg, Valentin Muhirwa and David Byiringiro of AFRIMAX TV who were arrested on Thursday 8 April 2020 and Mr Dieudonne Niyonsenga alias Cyuma of Ishema TV who was arrested on April 15, 2020 with his driver Fidele Komezusenge .They are all detained at the Remera Police station.

The constitution provides for freedom of expression, including for the press “in conditions prescribed by the law,” but for years Rwandan journalists especially journalists working for the non-state media, have been the victims of the government’s persecution and violent attack and the government has routinely used the criminal laws and sanctions to stifle free expression of opinion.

This current wave of arbitrary arrest and detention of journalist mirrors previous media crackdowns and is an additional example of the severe conditions and constraints faced by journalists in Rwanda

It is also one of the many measures taken by the Rwandan authorities to suppress the freedom of expression ,particularly any critical voice likely to expose the government failure in its duty of care to the people of Rwanda during this time the Covid -19 Pandemic is ravaging the globe.

The Rwandan investigation Bureau (RIB)accuse them to have breached the lockdowns measures in place in Rwanda to mitigate the spread of the virus but the GCRHR has learned from several sources that the journalists were arrested due to their continued reports and coverage highlighting the suffering of the population and the government failure to support the most vulnerable of its citizen to cushion the impact of the government’s lockdowns measures. This action is wicked and will only draw more attention to their arbitrary arrest and highlight more the plight of the most vulnerable in Rwandan society that these journalists were covering.

The GCRHR urge the Rwandan authorities to free these journalists without delay and to not associate those making the news with those who just cover it

The GCRHR is extremely concerned with the physical safety of these journalist at Remera Police Station as some people who have been detained for criticising the government have died mysteriously in this police station allegedly by suicide or by gun shot while trying to disarm police officers.

Recalling the death of Dr Emmanuel Gasakure, Me Donat Mutunzi and Kizito Mihigo in this Remera Police Station, the GCRHR is calling the Police to conduct a comprehensive risk assessment to ensure the health and safety of these journalist while in their custody.

The GCRHR will continue to demand that Rwandans journalists must be able to do their job without fear or favour.

Jean-Marie Minani

Head of justice

Global Campaign for Rwandan Human Rights.