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Rwanda2 December 2002

Journalist freed after six years in prison

A former state television journalist, Gédéon Mushimiyimana, was released from jail on 11 November after six years in detention for allegedly taking part in the country’s 1994 genocide.

In early November, the prosecutor’s office in Gitarama took him and other prisoners to meet the inhabitants of his home village. They made no accusations against him and he was temporarily freed a few days later. He will be heard by a traditional grassroots gacaca court in the next few months.

Reporters Without Borders is pleased about his release but notes that two other journalists - Dominique Makeli and Tatiana Mukakibibi - have been unjustly imprisoned for several years and calls on the Rwandan authorities and President Paul Kagame to see that they are freed immediately.

Mushimiyimana was arrested in Kigali in 1996 and accused of "sending information" to Radio France International (RFI) in which Kagame, who was then vice-president, was called a "terrorist." The journalist had met an RFI reporter who had been in Rwanda a few weeks earlier and had gone to the TV studios, where Mushimiyimana gave her cassettes of film taken by the station. A few days after his arrest, he was accused of murdering a family during the genocide.. He is being held in prison in the southern town of Butare.

(JPEG) Makeli, formerly with Radio Rwanda, has been in Kigali central prison since 18 September 1994. The Kigali state prosecutor, Sylvaire Gatambiye, told Reporters Without Borders in October 2001 that Makeli had "incited people to genocide with his reports." In May 1994, he had covered an alleged apparition of the Virgin May in the western town of Kibeho and had reported her supposed words: "The parent is in heaven."

The prosecutor said that at the time, this would have meant "President [Juvenal] Habyarimana is in heaven" and the people would have interpreted this as divine support for the former president and, by extension, the policy of exterminating Tutsis. Reporters Without Borders obtained a recording of this broadcast and played it to Rwandans who had been in the country at the time of the genocide. None thought it was an incitement to hatred.

(JPEG) Mukakibibi, also formerly with Radio Rwanda, has been held since 2 October 1996 at the town jail in Ntenyo (near Gitarama). She is accused of killing Eugène Bwanamudogo, a Tutsi who made radio programmes for the ministry of agriculture. A witness who was living with her at the time of the genocide told Reporters Without Borders that she could not have killed him because he died during the first days of the genocide when Mukakibibi was reporting in Cyangugu. A brother of the journalist is also said to have told the witness he had been killed by soldiers.

Mukakibibi is thought have been arrested at the instigation of Bwanamudogo’s sister Laetitia. The two families were rivals because Mukakibibi’s brother, Damascène Muhinda, supposedly took part in a massacre of Bwanamudogo’s family.



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