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Rwanda17 January 2006

Editor threatened by armed men who invaded his home at night

Reporters Without Borders voiced alarm today at the threats made against Bonaventure Bizumuremyi, the editor of the opposition fortnightly Umuco, by four armed intruders who invaded his Kigali home in the earlier hours of 15 January.

“This latest attack on one of the few newspapers still critical of the government is all the more worrying as its editor was physically targeted,” the press freedom organisation said. “How can the government still be surprised when we criticise the environment for the independent press in Rwanda? To dispel the suspicion hanging over the police, we call on the government to shed light on this serious attack and to punish those responsible. It will be judged by its results.”

Bizumuremyi was woken at 3 a.m. on 15 January by four men armed with clubs and knives who were banging on the door of his home in a working-class district of the capital. Once inside, they ransacked the house and threatened Bizumuremyi, ordering him to stop publishing articles criticising the ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF). They calmly left after neighbours intervened.

“What amazed me was that these men did not seem to be concerned by our intervention,” one of the witnesses said. “They calmly left the compound, without running.” The previous evening, a police car followed Bizumuremyi to his home. He also received telephone threats.

In the latest issue of Umuco, Bizumuremyi had criticised the lack of separation of powers in Rwanda and accused the RPF of being incapable of running the country. The newspaper has had many run-ins with the government in the past. An issue calling President Paul Kagame a dictator was confiscated on 19 September by police at the border (after being printed in neighbouring Uganda) on the grounds of “libel” and “attacking state security.”

One of its reporters, Jean Léonard Rugambage, has been held in Gitarama prison pending trial on a trumped-up charge of genocide since September. He was arrested 10 days after writing an article for Umuco about corrupt practices by some of the judges in charge of the “gacaca” popular tribunals in Ruyumba, and the use of these courts to settle personal scores. He was sentenced to a year in prison for contempt of court on 23 November after contesting the impartiality of the judge appointed to try him.

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