The exiled editor of Rwanda’s Umuvugizi newspaper, Jean Bosco Gasasira, one of Rwanda’s most outspoken journalists, says the Rwandan prosecutor’s request to the country’s Supreme Court to sentence him to 10 years in prison will not deter him from doing his job.
From his exiled home in Sweden, Gasasira says he will continue to expose corruption and what he calls criminal activities in Rwanda.
“[The] Rwanda prosecution stance of dragging me to court is really very arbitrary, and we are not even surprised of such things, most especially that it was concocted in the offices of the National Security services,” he says.
Alain Mukuralinda, spokesman for Rwanda prosecutor's office says Gasasira is charged with spreading rumors that incited civil disobedience, insulted the president and deliberately violated Rwanda’s media laws.
“He was being taken to court because he threatened state security through his local newspaper he published,” Mukuralinda says.
He says Rwanda enjoys press freedom, but journalists must respect media laws.
“Journalists can publish what they want, but they can’t do it without respect for the law. They have to respect the law of journalists and the law which is respected by all Rwandans,” Mukuralinda says.
Mukuralinda rejects allegations that his government was harassing journalists in order to silence them from from criticizing the government.
“I think our government respects press freedom, but if someone who is a journalist doesn’t respect the law, he must be prosecuted to the court,” Mukuralinda says.
But, Gasasira rejects the Rwandan prosecutors’ claims that his writings spread rumors, incited civil disobedience, insulted the president, and deliberately violated Rwanda’s media laws.
“Those are all allegations to deter us and to prosecute us and [from] prosecutors of such dictatorship countries. That’s why you see, like in Libya, [Moammar] Gadhafi compares journalists to cockroaches. That is the same when it comes to President [Paul] Kagame. He has tagged many things to journalists. I’ve been publishing articles exposing corruption scandals. So, when journalists expose such things that’s what they consider being a threat to national security,” Gasasira says.
A Kigali high court acquitted Gasasira last September on the same charges.
The Supreme Court is due to announce its verdict on May 27.
Gasasira’s Umuvugizi newspaper was suspended for six months in April 2010 and, in the heat of the run-up to last August’s presidential election, he went into exile.
Last June, Umuvugizi deputy editor Jean-Leonard Rugambage was shot at the gate of his home in Kigali.
Gasasira says it was a shame that the government has not been able to bring to justice those responsible for the murder.
“They are speeding this case when they haven’t prosecuted up to now the perpetrators of those who shot dead last year my deputy editor. The perpetrators of those who tried to assassinate me in 2007, up to now, surprisingly, they are not punished,” Gasasira says.
The government says it has jailed two people for life for Rugambage’s murder.
Gasasira says, as a Rwandan and a journalist, it would be wrong for him to ignore perceived corruption.