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Rwanda23 April 2003

First issue of new independent paper seized

Reporters Without Borders protested today against seizure of the first issue of the weekly paper Indorerwamo (The Mirror) and called on internal security minister Jean de Dieu Ntiruhungwa to return the copies at once.

"This prior censorship shows press freedom is not guaranteed in Rwanda," said the organisation’s secretary-general, Robert Ménard, in a letter to him. "Rwanda’s press law requires no permission to start up a new publication, just a simple written declaration and Indorerwamo has provided this.

Rwandan President Paul Kagame is on the Reporters Without Borders worldwide list of predators of press freedom.

Police seized all copies of the paper on 22 April when they arrived from Uganda at the border with Rwanda. Like most Rwandan publications, the paper was printed in Uganda to save money. Copied of other papers have been allowed in without any problem.

Indorerwamo’s representative, who was to take the copies to Kigali, was detained by police for several hours, after which the papers were sent to police headquarters in Kigali. The paper’s publisher, Ismael Mbonigaba, told Reporters Without Borders that police had given no reason for the confiscation.

Mbonigaba was arrested on 22 January and imprisoned for five weeks for writing in another independent publication, Umuseso, that former prime minister Faustin Twagiramungu would stand against Kagame at the next presidential election.

The article was accompanied by a cartoon of the president 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.

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