16 June 2010

Independent website blocked prior to elections

Immediately after his newspaper was suspended for criticising President Paul Kagame, a defiant Rwandan editor launched an online news website that was just as critical of the government. In the lead up to presidential elections in August, the site was recently blocked, report the Media Institute, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

Editor John Bosco Gasasira's newspaper "Umuvugizi" was suspended by the Media High Council in April for six months. This ensures the paper will not appear on newsstands until after presidential elections. The website of the same name, established after Gasasira went into exile in Uganda, has been blocked in Rwanda since 3 June.

The ban came after the site carried a story describing the exorbitant travel expenses of the President, saying 60 per cent of the government's budget comes from foreign donations while the population is suffering from poverty and AIDS.

Gasasira has been assaulted and prosecuted for critical coverage, and left the country after being harassed and receiving threatening letters. His news site can be accessed in PDF format by readers outside Rwanda and those using TiGO mobiles in Rwanda.

"President Paul Kagame's government, which had already deployed a large arsenal of measures to gag the press, has set a disturbing precedent by blocking this website. The regime has shown it is able to innovate in order to pursue its long-standing obsession about controlling news and information," said RSF. President Kagame is on the RSF list of "Predators of Press Freedom."

The weekly "Umuseso" was also suspended in April. The Media High Council is seeking a court order to ban both publications indefinitely, arguing their articles are abusive toward officials and undermine national security, according to news reports.

Related stories on ifex.org

Tabloid website blocked 8 June 2010
More from Rwanda
  • Freedom on the Net 2017: Rwanda

    An independent online journalist faced regular police interrogations and was assaulted several times in 2016

  • Freedom of the Press 2017: Rwanda

    A number of independent or opposition-aligned online news outlets remained inaccessible.

  • Freedom of the Press 2016: Rwanada

    As in previous years, several opposition blogs and independent news websites were intermittently inaccessible inside Rwanda during 2015.

At this point, would publish cover: "Home page"
IFEX is a global network of committed organisations working to defend and promote free expression.
Permission is granted for material on this website to be reproduced or republished in whole or in part provided the source member and/or IFEX is cited with a link to the original item.