News / Europe

Sarkozy Urged to Confront Kagame on Rights Issues

Media rights groups are condemning Rwanda's criminal conviction of three top journalists at one of the country's last independent news publications. The Paris-based Reporters Without Borders is calling on French President Nicolas Sarkozy to address press freedom concerns with his Rwandan counterpart during a watershed visit to the central African nation later this week.

The publisher, the acting editor, and a reporter at the private Rwandan weekly Umuseso were sentenced to prison terms and fines this week for reporting on an alleged romantic affair between two senior government officials.

Global press freedom watchdog groups, including U.S.-based Committee to Protect Journalists and France-based Reporters Without Borders, are slamming the convictions, which they cite as the latest example of the systematic repression of free press in Rwanda.

Earlier this week Amnesty International accused Rwandan President Paul Kagame of using vague criminal speech laws to suppress political opposition.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy is arriving in the Rwandan capital Kigali later this week to signal a pivotal thawing of relations between the two nations.

Reporters Without Borders secretary-general, Jean-Francois Julliard, said his organization was urging the French leader to bring up the issue of press freedoms during his meeting with Mr. Kagame.

"We have sent a letter to President Sarkozy about the situation of the press in Rwanda, and we want him to speak about this issue and human rights in general with President Kagame during Sarkozy's visit to Kigali in a few days," he said.

Relations between France and Rwanda have been icy ever since the 1994 genocide that left some 800,000 dead in 100 days, most of them were Rwandan Tutsi. Kagame's ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front has accused the French of supporting the ethnic Hutu militias which led the slaughter.

Rwanda cut off official diplomatic ties between the two nations after a French judge accused President Kagame of ordering the killing in 1994 of Rwanda's then-leader, whose death served as the trigger for the ethnic bloodshed.

The two nations restored ties last year.

The three journalists were convicted for violating the privacy of government officials in reporting the alleged extramarital affair between Kigali's mayor and the cabinet affairs minister. But the three media workers say that the issue is a matter of public concern because a 2008 ethics law specifically forbids public officials from committing adultery.

Julliard says that the Umuseso weekly, printed in the local Kinyarwanda language, is significant because it is one of the few remaining private weeklies remaining with an independent editorial stance, which often has put it at odds with the Kagame government.

Rwanda ranked 157th out of 175 countries worldwide in a Reporters Without Borders 2009 press freedom index. Only three African countries - Eritrea, Somalia, and Equatorial Guinea - fared worse.

A recent Committee to Protect Journalists report on attacks against the press last year around the world also named Rwanda as one of the worst offenders of media rights on the continent.

The Rwandan judge refused to order the Umuseso publication completely shut down, as had been sought by the state prosecutor.

You May Like

How to Safeguard Your Mobile Privacy

As the digital world becomes more mobile, so too do concerns about eroding privacy and increased hacking More

'Desert Dancer' Chronicles Iranian Underground Dance Troupe

Film by Richard Raymond is based on true story of Afshin Ghaffarian and his friends More

Obesity Poses Complex Problem

Professor warns of obesity’s worldwide health impact More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam Wari
X
Katherine Gypson
May 25, 2015 1:32 AM
For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.
Video

Video On Film: How Dance Defies Iran's Political Oppression

'Desert Dancer' by filmmaker Richard Raymond is based on the true story of a group of young Iranians, who form an underground dance troupe in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the latest in a genre of films that focus on dance as a form of freedom of expression against political oppression and social injustice. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Turkey's Ruling Party Trying to Lure Voters in Opposition Stronghold

Turkey’s AK (Justice and Development) Party is seeking a fourth successive general election victory, with the goal of securing two-thirds of the seats in Parliament to rewrite the constitution and change the country's parliamentary system into a presidential one. To achieve that, the party will need to win seats in opposition strongholds like the western city of Izmir. Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.
Video

Video Scientists Testing Space Propulsion by Light

Can the sun - the heart of our solar system - power a spacecraft to the edge of our solar system? The answer may come from a just-launched small satellite designed to test the efficiency of solar sail propulsion. Once deployed, its large sail will catch the so-called solar wind and slowly reach what scientists hope to be substantial speed. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video FIFA Trains Somali Referees

As stability returns to the once lawless nation of Somalia, the world football governing body, FIFA, is helping to rebuild the country’s sport sector by training referees as well as its young footballers. Abdulaziz Billow has more from Mogadishu.
Video

Video With US Child Obesity Rates on the Rise, Program Promotes Health Eating

In its fifth year, FoodCorps puts more than 180 young Americans into 500 schools across the United States, where they focus on teaching students about nutrition, engaging them with hands-on activities, and improving their access to healthy foods whether in the cafeteria or the greater community. Aru Pande has more.
Video

Video Virginia Neighborhood Draws People to Nostalgic Main Street

In the U.S., people used to grow up in small towns with a main street lined by family-owned shops and restaurants. Today, however, many main streets are worn down and empty because shoppers have been lured away by shopping malls. But in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, Virginia, main street is thriving. VOA’s Deborah Block reports it has a nostalgic feel with its small restaurants and unique stores.

VOA Blogs