National

Prosecution pins Umurabyo journalists

  • By Edmund Kagire
  • February 01, 2012
photo
Umurabyo journalists Saidat Mukakibibi (L) and Agnes Uwimana during their appeal hearing. The New Times / T. Kisambira.

Prosecutors in the appeal case of two convicted female journalists, yesterday requested the Supreme Court to uphold the decision by the High Court to sentence Agnes Nkusi Uwimana and Saidath Mukakibibi to 17 and seven years in jail, respectively.

State Prosecutors Richard Muhumuza and Jean Damascène Habineza, told the court led by the Chief Justice Prof. Sam Rugege, that Uwimana and Mukakibibi published with intent the articles which appeared in their 2010 editions.

The duo were in February 2010 found guilty of committing crimes related to inciting public disorder, among others, promoting ethnic divisions and defaming the person of the president.

Uwimana and Mukakibibi maintain that they were wrongly sentenced by the High Court because their publications were within the confines of the law and were merely practising their rights to freedom of speech and expression.

Pointing to several articles that appeared in the editions of the controversial tabloid published before the July 2010 arrest, the prosecutors underlined that Uwimana and Mukakibibi clearly abused the media laws and the right to freedom of expression.

“There are sections in the media law that prohibit journalists from engaging in defamation, insulting people and abusing the rights they are accorded.
Prior to their arrest, the editors of the paper had been reprimanded by the Media High Council (MHC) which analysed the articles and found the two had gone overboard to abuse the laws of this country,” Habineza pointed out.

Yesterday, Uwimana and Mukakibibi told court that they believe their case has had a ‘political interpretation’ and that the prosecutors are presumed to be defending the current government but the judge warned the two against diverting from the real case.

The prosecutors said that the evidence before the High Court indicated that the two clearly had intentions to mislead the masses.

While initially denying the charges, towards the end, Uwimana resorted to asking for the court’s leniency which somewhat reflected her guilt by saying that whatever she did was aimed at earning a living.

“If she says that whatever she did she had no motive but rather earn a living, and that she should be released on humanitarian grounds, she should first admit the charges before court gives her the leniency.

“Uwimana was arrested a few months after she had been released and pardoned over similar charges, she had pleaded guilty and begged the court for leniency. If this wasn’t deliberate, then what was it?” the prosecutor wondered.

It is alleged that Uwimana urged citizens not to participate in the national savings programme, Umurenge Sacco, noting that the government would defraud them out of their hard earned money.

In one of the articles, she also alleged that the government was using Gacaca to take revenge against some people, and also imprison others unfairly. She apparently said the same courts were responsible for thousands of exiles.

Uwimana also noted in her articles that the crop intensification programme introduced by farmers denied locals an opportunity to grow their traditional crops, forcing them to instead use their land to grow fodder to feed cows of the privileged few.

She is also said to have trivialised the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi by alleging that Hutu’s and Tutsi’s hacked each other to death.

Mukakibibi on the other hand said that under the current government, extra judicial killings and poverty had increased and that Rwandans were worse off than they were in previous regimes.

The two further denied the charges, saying that their articles were interpreted out of context. The Judges asked the two to differentiate between opinions, analysis and news reporting.

The trial was adjourned  until February 17.

Contact email: edmund.kagire[at]newtimes.co.rw

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