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Rwanda25 February 2003

Editor of independent paper detained for more than a month

Reporters Without Border protested today again the "unjustified" detention for more than a month of Ismael Mbonigaba, editor of the newspaper Umuseso, for allegedly "inciting people to be divisive and practice discrimination" and said it was just an excuse for the government to crack down on independent media and the opposition.

Calling on the authorities to free him at once, it said the May 2002 press law banned preventive detention of journalists except for specific reasons, which did not include incitement to be divisive.

Mbonigaba was arrested on 22 January and sent two days later to Kigali’s central prison under an anti-discrimination law of last 18 December. A decision on his fate is expected on 27 February. He faces several years in prison.

He was picked up after his paper reported on 13 January that former prime minister Faustin Twagiramungu would stand against President Paul Kagame at the next presidential election.

The article was accompanied by a cartoon of Kagame as King Solomon holding the hand of a baby representing the Democratic Republican Movement (MDR, a member of the government coalition), with a sword in his other hand. Two other people were shown pestering him about how to handle the MDR. The cartoon suggested he was the arbiter of the party’s divisions and that he alone could decide its future.

Mbonigaba has been targeted by the authorities several times before, including last May, when he was arrested after criticising a speech in which Kagame called Rwandans "idiots." His passport was seized, preventing him from going to neighbouring Burundi to attend a conference.

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