Rwanda: Why the High Council of Media Decided to Suspend Umuseso and Umuvugizi newspapers
On Tuesday, April 13, 2010, the Board of the Media High Council held an extraordinary meeting at its headquarters. This Meeting was aimed at Analyzing various articles published in the newspapers Umuseso and Umuvugizi.
As evidenced by a detailed analysis of these articles published in those two newspapers since the beginning of 2010 and in the previous years, it was found out that these newspapers have persistently violated the laws governing the media and adamantly refused to adhere to ethical demands of the industry.
Many of the articles published in these two newspapers did not meet professional standards as they continuously reflected false and inciting reporting aimed at creating a sense of fear amongst the Rwandan people.
Some of the material published was intended to undermine the reputation of the Head of State and polarize the national security organs, which evidently endangers public law and order. They have been characterized by inaccuracies, seditious material, use of abusive language, insulting and damaging reputation of individuals and calling for use of violent means to address problems facing Rwandans.
This is evidenced in the different issues of these papers some of whose articles are outlined here under:
01. UMUSESO N° 397 of March 01-08, 2010, UMUSESO N°398 of March 08-15, 2010, UMUSESO N° 399 of April 15-22, 2010, UMUSESO N° 403 of April 12-19, 2010, and others highlighted here under.
Below are some of the articles published by these two papers with inciting information:
1. “As predicted: General Kayumba has also fled the country”,
* “Considering the love he enjoys with the army, for some of them this is an important reason to desert and group together and eventually fight Kagame.…”;
* “I swear to you that many of these soldiers will desert Kagame because of the good initiative Kayumba has taken”;
* “Secondly, those still pampered, particularly Ndahiro or Kabarebe must start thinking about their eventual end.…”,
2. “The reasons why Rwanda is drifting into darkness”
* … He who refuses a peaceful political revolution makes a bloody revolution necessary;
* … The queue of those who want change in the governance of this country, (and not a peaceful one since all avenues for peaceful revolution can no longer work) is growing by the day. This is leading Rwanda into total darkness.
* … Anyone who wishes to analyze Kagame’s policies and opinions since 1994 to date can never fail to conclude that Rwanda future is doomed;
* Even if Kagame cannot admit it openly, but anyone who concludes that Kagame leaves in fear of being overthrown anytime, would not be lying himself at all;
* If Kagame was capable, he would protect us from darkness; otherwise we are getting closer and closer to it (dark days);
Chronology of Umuseso’s mistakes since 2004
On 13/09/2004, the MHC made a decision to ask the Minister of Information to suspend the newspaper Umuseso for four months. This decision was taken after the MHC had realised that the Management of the newspaper did not comply with the formal notice of August 20, 2004, which followed the hearing of august 18, 2004 relating to the articles of Umuseso’s issue No. 186 of August 01-07, 2004.
The formal notice requested Umuseso Management to accept these errors, to apologize, and to correct them in the issue that was to follow the above-mentioned hearing. Nevertheless, the issues that followed never complied with all these requirements.
On receiving a complaint from the Minister of Finance and Economic Planning on 12/09/2008, the MHC wrote to the Management of the newspaper Umuseso, requiring them to explain the information they had published in their issue No 308 of August 4-14, 2008. This information related to the errors that the aforementioned Minister made according to the Newspaper.
The Management of the newspaper Umuseso wrote to the MHC on 18/09/2008, providing explanations.
After examining the explanations that had been provided by the management of the newspaper Umuseso on 31/10/2008, the MHC once again wrote to them requesting them to rectify the slanderous information and to run an apology in their next issue.
The MHC had found out that the article “Minister Musoni disobeyed the Prime Minister” was erroneous (incorrect) and did not comply with the laws and ethics governing the profession of journalism in Rwanda.
The newspaper Umuseso was unable to provide explanations or give evidence for it.
All the issues of the newspaper that followed, this correction demanded by MHC was not made.
On 16/12/2008, the members of the Board of the MHC held a meeting with the Minister of Information and discussed the state of the media in Rwanda and jointly sought ways of finding lasting solutions to the problems facing it. Within the framework of promoting Media Freedom in the country MHC followed up the issue of some newspapers including Umuseso and Umuvugizi boycotted by government because of their continuous publication of fabricated material.
On 10/03/2009, the MHC wrote to the boycotted newspapers particularly Umuseso, Umuvugizi, and Rushyashya, to review together their working methods and to adopt new resolutions that would encourage the MHC to help them out of the boycott. A meeting for this discussion was held on 13/03/2009 between the Managements of these newspapers and the MHC
In this meeting, the MHC showed Umuseso a detailed analysis of its errors which appeared in its 14 issues between 2007 and 2008. In short, the most outstanding of those errors are as follows:
* Publishing false news with the intention of inciting or discouraging security organs.
* News that are detrimental to public order and the security of the country
* Insulting, slandering, defaming innocent individuals
* Interfering in other people’s private lives without good reasons;
* Publishing photographs without any relationship with the news published, without caption, or without indicating their source;
* Publishing biased information;
* Using journalism as a means of confrontation and intimidation;
* Abusing and insulting the President of the Republic of Rwanda.
Just like the Umuseso newspaper, the articles appearing in the Umuvugizi newspaper are also characterized by violation of laws and principles governing journalists and the journalism profession, particularly in the following issues:
Umuvugizi n° 74 of Mata 9-20, 2010, n° 67 of January 8-16, 2010, n° 69 of February 14-25, 2010, n° 66 of December 18-27, 2009, Umuvugizi n° 23 of 23 February-March, 2007, Umuvugizi n° 38 of February 23-8, March 2008, Umuvugizi n° 41 of February 17-28, 2008, Umuvugizi n° 59 of July 16-30, 2009, Ikinyamakuru n° 60 of 26 July, 2008-August 2009.
Illustrative examples are given in the information below:
1. “A colonel and three (3) captains of RDF degraded due to intrigues”
Examples of offensive statements:
« … As for colonel Semana, after his seven (7) month suspension, he was arrested after having been attributed gratuitously crimes like those of Lucifer, and later on, the J7 stick was inflicted to him. » (MHC’s comment: J7 is not a true or correct division, unit or real thing but a creation of this newspaper often used to negatively portray some RDF official).
« … He was accused of having disobeyed his superiors, a shadow position was given to him, and since 1993 to date, he kept the rank of major… a part from his great heart, anyone else in his place would apply for retirement instead of being abused unceasingly and would leave for private business, given that he is a doctor, and he was a doctor when he joined the rebellion and he was in a better situation. » (For the MHC, this is an open call and encouragement to the military to disobedience and to desert the army.)
Examples of questionable sentences:
2. « List of RPF Inkotanyi sycophants said to be behind the move to overthrow Kagame’s government! »
«The truth behind what is said of this report is that most people confirm that this report is an act intended to have some among RPF Inkotanyi members killed. To that end there are some who are on the said list due to their misunderstanding with the ‘clique of hunters’ »
« Our dear readers, information reaching us, confirms that this report is likely not reliable given that the people mentioned therein were the first to speak against Kabanda Charles and the resolutions of the said meeting were submitted to their superiors.»
3. ‘‘RPF Inkotanyi dogs Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party footsteps“,
- ‘‘Others too, namely those girls and young men wishing to work out side the RPF Inkotanyi are most likely suicide prone in a country like Rwanda, where no one would come running to join politics. If you are not careful you would fall down and die but if you are so lucky you hurt yourself”;
‘‘They begun to wonder whether what was done by Mugabe’s Zanu-PF is likely to be replicated by RPF Inkotanyi ”
4. “They vowed to kill him, but alas they missed”
* “…Jack Nziza who is notorious for committing such practices of human rights abuse and Musoni James alike”.
* “There is much more information pointing to the failure of the Police in its intervention for they covered up the killers.”
* “Umuyanja Kanuma who comes from unknown family and unknown village in Rwanda and who is dwelling in Rwanda as a mercenary”.
5. ‘‘Journalists interfered in the Prosecutor Mutangana and Dr Diane Gashumba‘s adultery published in the newspaper number 59 of 16-30 July 2009“;
* “… So she met with the Prosecutor Mutangana the skirt-hunter with no border, who is like a Commune’s bull ”;
* -“… but had the bad luck to marry an adultery woman”.
* “ The Prosecutor Mutangana used the public powers in his own interest ”;
* “The Prosecutor has forsaken his legal spouse and took one else’s wife”;
6. Scandal: Police, Prosecutor Mutangana and Dr Diane in the plot to sweep off adultery related information Umuvugizi number 60, of 16-30 July 2009
* « … Such men destructors of other people’s households due to adultery would be called ‘the Commune’s bull » ;
* « Information reaching the newspaper UMUVUGIZI shows that Prosecutor ended to destroy his family in order to enjoy sex with Kanyamahanga’s wife without pain ».
* « Information we hold, is from women friends of Prosecutor Mutangana Jean Bosco telling that they express concern about the way he destroys other people’s households… » ;
* Information we hold affirms that the Prosecutor would have just prepared the to blast UMUVUGIZI, by force and different ways … ».
7. “Misunderstanding, greed and opulence can destroy RPF-Inkotanyi“
* “Our dear readers, RPF situation is so horrible, that many of those men count among greedy people [to insult] not committed to the benebifit of the party in particular and that of the country in general“.
* “And this reminds me the proverb which goes like this ” `[Tutsis]`share blood, they do not share milk”
And apart from this, this newspaper from time to time did not respect laws and principles governing the profession in their publications issued from 2006, in addition to this it does not respect authorities responsible for law application.
Umuvugizi newspaper offences as presented by MHC
As shown above, on 13 March 2009, the Media High Council held a meeting with the newspapers said to be isolated by Government which included Umuvugizi. In that meeting, the Umuvugizi management, after being shown different offences it committed, it was advised to be careful and to change its publication by avoiding offences against the dispositions in the law on information and principles ruling the profession of journalism.
On 16 July 2009, the High Council of the Press received the complainant of people accusing the newspaper Umuvugizi of slandering, being hurtful and interfering in the privacy of other people with no grounds. On assessing the charges it received, MHC requested the newspaper Umuvugizi authority to provide explanations but that newspaper had never answered about the offences it was accused of. Furthermore, it had never presented any grounds to the MHC. Considering that it was found guilty of all the faults and that newspaper is characterized by not abiding to applying laws and principles on the journalits and their profession in Rwanda, MHC requested the authority of that newspaper to correct those errors of slandering which appeared in the number 60 of 26 Jully-8 August 2009 and concerning them it did not show any reaction.
Generally, the various frequent faults in the writings of the Umuvugizi are as follows:
* Publishing false news with the intention of inciting or demoralizing security organs.
* Publishing news that are detrimental to public order and the security of the country
* Publishing stories that are insulting, slandering and defaming innocent individuals
* to spread rumours, to amplify them Groundless information containing exaggerated language;
* To disseminate partisan information
* to insult to slander, to hurt any body and to threaten authorities and national institutions
* to interfere in the privacy of people with no reason;
* Not to present information source;
* To support riots;
* Mixing news and a journalist’s own thoughts and opinions.
Considering that those media organizations have been advised and warned many times but did not pay attention to such advice, the MHC decided to react to this situation because they are knowingly not observing laws, moreover such publications where they would keep on being released through media organizations, they could bring about destabilization of security of the country as a whole and they are aimed at dividing institutions responsible for national security.
The MHC considering that it has been warning those media organizations very often at different times but they did not change attitudes, pursuant to Article 83 of Law n°22/2009 of 12/08/2009, decides as follows:
To temporarily suspend both Umuseso and Umuvugizi newspapers for a six-month period starting from this 13th day of April 2010.
Since the offenses committed by these newspapers are serious and constitute offenses punishable by criminal laws, the MHC requests the judicial institutions concerned to follow up it up.
Articles of Law n˚ 22/2009 on media in Rwanda violated by the two newspapers
A journalist shall have the following main responsibilities:
1° to publish authentic and verified information;
2° to give all parties subject of news and information an opportunity to respond to allegations made against them;
A journalist shall be prohibited from:
5. Slander, libel or defamation;
9. Pass judgment while publishing information.
Without prejudice to provisions of Article 82 of this Law, the following crimes committed through the media are punishable with penalties provided for by the Criminal Law, and so notwithstanding their suspension by the Media High Council:
3. Contempt to the Head of State of Rwanda, the Head of a foreign State, Ambassadors and representatives of countries and international organizations accredited to Rwanda;
4. Inciting the army or the national police to insubordination;
5. Publication of false information intended to undermine the moral of Rwanda Defense Forces and the National Police and to endanger national security;
Articles of the professional code of ethics violated
Article 5: Avoid rumors, amplifying or keeping it alive, speculation, staged news events, falsification of documents or suppression of essential information.
Article 11: Always question the motive of, and identify sources. The only exception to this rule shall be in relation to information given in confidence. Before making any promises, always clarify conditions attached. Whenever such a pledge is made, keep the promise.
Article 20: Avoid intrusion and inquiries into an individual’s private life without the person’s consent unless public interest overrides.
Article 22: Respect the presumption of innocence for suspects and cases until concluded by competent courts or tribunals. This shall include avoiding implicating innocent persons not involved in the case but who may be directly related to the suspect or referring to his/her ethnicity, tribe, religion, sex, family or friends, unless their mention would serve public interest.
Formal notice of 13/09/2004 to journalists
Letter no 475/HCP/08 of 12/09/2008 requesting written explanations from Umuseso.
 Letter no 009/RMG/04 from RIMEG to MHC exculpating against the complaint of the Ministry of Economy and Economic Planning.
 Letter no 529/MHC/08 of 31/10/2008 requesting the newspaper Umuseso to correct slandering news and to apologize for it in the next issue