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Rwanda 20 September 2005

Police confiscate opposition fortnightly, hold editor for 7 hours

Reporters Without Borders voiced concern today about the Rwandan government’s continuing crackdown on the opposition press after police yesterday seized part of the latest issue of the fortnightly Umuco and detained its editor, Bonaventure Bizumuremyi, for 7 hours.

“The authorities seem determined to silence all critical voices by force,” the press freedom organisation said. “We are all the more alarmed as the censoring of Umuco comes on the heels of the imprisonment of one of its journalists, Jean Léonard Rugambage, and the imprisonment of the magazine Dialogue’s former editor, Guy Theunis.”

Copies of Umuco’s latest issue were seized at the border as they were being brought in from neighbouring Uganda where, like many other Rwandan publications, it is printed in Kampala because production costs are cheaper. The authorities said they were confiscated for containing “libel” and “undermining state security.”

Bizumuremyi nonetheless managed to distribute a limited number of copies of the issue to street vendors in Kigali, where some vendors were harassed by police this morning on the streets.

In the offending issue, articles carrying Bizumuremyi’s byline called President Paul Kagame a “dictator,” accused the ruling FPR of forcing government employees and local cooperatives to contribute funds to the party, and criticised the arrests of Rugambage and Theunis.

The police detained and interrogated Bizumuremyi from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. yesterday before letting him go. He said he has been receiving telephone threats ever since. The financial loss resulting from the confiscation could threaten the newspaper’s survival, he added.

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