Reporters Without Borders today urged the authorities to free Radio Rwanda journalist Dominique Makeli, who has been held for exactly 10 years in different Rwandan jails without ever appearing in court. Arrested on 18 September 1994, Makeli is currently being held in Kigali central prison.
"We have been voicing our concern about Makeli’s fate for the past ten years and, once again, we reiterate our demand for his release," the organisation said.
Reporters Without Borders also reiterated its concern about growing threats to press freedom in Rwanda: "The authorities in Kigali are always boasting of their support for democracy but they do not seem to worry about the threats to journalists whose reports they find irritating."
The organisation added: "On the 10th anniversary of Makeli’s arrest, we call on the Rwandan government to see that his release would send a strong signal of a good faith if it wants to be able continue proclaiming its support for press freedom."
The Kigali state prosecutor told Reporters Without Borders in October 2001 that Makeli was accused of inciting genocide in his reports. While covering an appearance of the Virgin in Kibeho, in the west of the country, in May 1994, he reported that she was supposed to have said: "The parent is in heaven."
The prosecutor insisted that, in the context of that moment, this was taken to mean, "President Habyarimana is in heaven" and was interpreted as a message of support for Habyarimana and, by extension, the policy of exterminating Tutsis.
Reporters Without Borders obtained a recording of this programme and played it to Rwandans who were in the country at the time of the genocide. None of them thought Makeli was fomenting hate.
Over 13 years ago, Reporters without Borders created its "Sponsorship Programme" and called upon the international media to select and support an imprisoned journalist. One hundred and twenty news staffs around the globe are thus sponsoring colleagues by regularly petitioning authorities for their release and by publicising their situations so that their cases will not be forgotten.
Currently, Dominique Makeli is sponsored by Club de la presse de Bordeaux - Revue Solidarité, Club de la presse de Lille, Club de la presse de Montpellier, Club de la presse de Strasbourg, Courrier International, La Lettre de l’USJ-CFDT, Le Journal du centre, Le Reflet, RTBF (Television), Södermanlands Nyheter, www.expotimes.net.