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Rwanda: Suspended newspaper accuses Media Council of illegal action

The last covers of Umuseso and Umuvugizi, for a whileThe most recent covers of Umuseso and Umuvugizi (source: KigaliWire1, The two newspapers were also said to be creating the impression among investors that the country was not safe. UMUVUGIZI (here on the right) says the High Council of the Media bundled it like a “best man” to UMUSESO (left). The Office of the President has also been notified.

Kigali: UMUVUGIZI newspaper – one of the two suspended last week has accused the High Council of the Media of basing its decision on “sentiments and disregarding the law”, RNA reports.

In a petition to the Council on Monday, also copied to the Office of the President and several ministries, UMUVUGIZI publisher Mr. Jean Bosco Gasasira wants the decision reversed immediately.

On Wednesday last week, just hours before a major speech in which President Kagame demanded that media which was trading rumour “must stop” or they are stopped, the Media Council slammed a 6-month suspension on UMUSESO and UMUVUGIZI.

The Council says the two papers have since January been insulting the Head of State, sowing discontent in the army and causing panic in the population. Brandishing many copies of UMUSESO about two of UMUVUGIZI, the Council chairman Mr. Arthur Asiimwe and Executive Secretary Patrice Mulama argued that the papers were also creating the impression the situation in the country was insecure to investors.

However, in the petition, UMUVUGIZI chief says his paper is being treated as a “best man” for UMUSESO by being bundled together because no reasons were given for the suspension of UMUVUGIZI.

The only Issue 60 of UMUVUGIZI which the Council based on is that in which the paper details a complicated extramarital affair between state prosecutor Jean Bosco Mutangana and Dr. Diane Gashumba, head of the Rwanda Women Network.

The two senior officials have dragged the paper to court, which according to Mr. Gasasira bares the Media Council from prejudging the case. The case is in the appeals court.

Basing his arguments on articles 16, 73, 82, 83, 84 and 94 of the media law, Mr. Gasasira says UMUVUGIZI has “never been summoned” by the Media Council over the issues raised in the suspension decision. Mr. Gasasira also says the law states that before a paper is suspended for six months, it is warned, and then handed two months before the final decision.

“None of these were done,” he noted. “Instead [the media council] kept on saying UMUSESO, just like UMUVUGIZI is doing this and that…”

The controversial journalist says the Council disregarded the law with intent to “suppress freedom of press”.

Media rights groups have also come out in spirited defense of the papers. President Kagame for his part said he would not allow any media undermining national security to operate.


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