The “land of a thousand hills” was deeply traumatised by the genocide of the Tutsis in 1994 and in particular by the disturbing role played by Hutu “hate media”. As a result, Paul Kagame’s government keeps under surveillance, punishes, harasses and threatens all defiant voices. In consequence, the Rwandan press has become extremely nervous, even servile. The few critical publications, such as the privately-owned weeklies Umuseso and Umuco, suffer harassment, protracted trials, and outright seizures. It not unusual for Rwandan journalists, who have upset the “barons” of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (FPR), to flee the country.
In one particularly sickening case in 2005, Belgian priest Guy Theunis, former editor of the magazine Dialogue produced in Rwanda before the genocide and former Reporters Without Borders’ correspondent, was in September dragged before the courts and accused of being an “instigator” of the genocide. His accusers claimed, among other things, that he had published extracts from extremist publications. An investigation by Reporters Without Borders proved that the charge against Theunis was completely fabricated. It appeared that a handful of individuals, motivated by personal or political grudges, had crudely framed him. Theunis had been the victim of a personal vendetta by some government supporters who took advantage of his visit to Rwanda to make him pay for his religious commitment, condemnations of human rights abuses committed by the FPR, or simply for personal score-settling. Thanks to pressure from the international community, he was transferred to Belgium two months after his arrest.
At the same time, a journalist on Umuco, who made the mistake of condemning the poor running of a gacaca, had to face the “parody of justice” organised by the judge whom he had exposed.