Rwanda: Case of suspended newspapers UMUSESO and UMUVUGIZI opens in Kigali court
Kigali: The case in which the High Media Council has petitioned court to ban the two tabloids completely off the market opened on May 18th with the prosecution asking for more time to study the lengthy submissions of the defense, RNA reports.
The Media Council suspended the weekly tabloids UMUSESO and UMUVUGIZI on April 13 over accusations of insulting President Kagame, provoking possible insubordination in the army and causing panic in the population. The Council followed the suspension with a suit for a complete ban on the papers.
On Tuesday, the Nyarugenge Intermediate Court heard separate submissions from the prosecution against the two papers. First it was detailing the allegations on UMUSESO, which the lawyer representing the Media Council said had repeatedly and deliberately undermined summons from the Council.
The prosecution attorney argues that the despite warnings, UMUSESO had continued to publish content which was defamatory, abusive and slanderous to the Person of the Head of State and other officials. The charge sheet also claims the paper deliberately publishes content which undermines the harmony in the country – causing panic.
Basing on the grounds of the suspension, prosecution claims the paper has since January been publishing alarming articles containing rumours of arrests in the army which had not happened. Prosecution argues that these articles undermine national security.
The defense dismissed all the accusations, instead saying the Media Council had over-stepped its powers with the six-month suspension. Defense attorney Jean Bosco Kazungu pleaded with court to dismiss the suit.
He said the suit contravenes article 83 of the press law which came into force in August last year. The article details the crimes that can be committed in the media and which punishments are prescribed. The defense says none applies to the case before court.
Mr. Kazungu told court that the Media Council suit also contravenes section 2 of article 22 which underlines that a media cannot be suspended and at the same time dragged to court. Instead, the Media Council was supposed to have used the courts as the first avenue, according to the defense attorney.
Mr. Kazungu also argued that the Media Council suit contradicts article 84 of the same media law. According to him, the Council rushed to court before the six-month suspension had ended.
The defense also informed court that UMUSESO had petitioned court against the suspension, which as the law prescribes means no other action can be taken by any party in the case. However, Mr. Kazungu said the Media Council has done exactly that – thereby going against this principle which is mentioned in article 18 of the media law.
In a final submission, the defense pleaded that the Media Council suit does not merit a hearing in court because it was filed by an incompetent instance.
In response, the prosecuting attorney asked court to grant him more time to look through the evidence advanced by the defense, to which the Nyarugenge Intermediate Court concurred. Hearing of the UMUSESO case returns on Tuesday June 01.
In another separate case in which the Media Council wants the same court to ban UMUVUGIZI completely in addition to the six-month suspension, the defense attorney Celestin Buhura also demanded court throw the suit out.
The UMUVUGIZI editor and publisher Jean Bosco Gasasira has already fled the country.
Mr. Buhura told court that the Media Council has bundled UMUVUGIZI together with UMUSESO when the two are different newspapers. The Council does not give specific crimes committed by UMUVUGIZI, according to the defense.
Following heated exchanges between prosecution and defense, court ruled that the UMUVUGIZI case will continue on June 01.