Media body calls for three-month suspension of Christian radio station for alleged hate speech


Amazing Grace Radio proprietor (right) Gregory Ryan Shoof explains himself before Rwanda Media Commission yesterday. Timothy Kisambira.

Rwanda Media Commission (RMC), the self-regulatory body for the media, has requested Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority (RURA) to suspend Amazing Grace Radio’s programming for three months over alleged divisive broadcast.

This followed a public hearing following various petitions seeking explanations from the station’s management for airing a sermon that was described by many as discriminatory against women.

During the broadcast, the local religious radio station hosted a preacher, identified as Nicolas Niyibikora, who went on air to vent what is perceived as hatred against women who he said were the source of all evil.

Aired on January 29, 2018, Niyibikora’s sermon in Kinyarwanda instantly went viral on social media, igniting anger among many rights activists, with some commentators describing the message as divisive and inciting people to hate a section of the population.

Women activists, including Pro-Femmes Twese Hamwe, an umbrella organisation of women associations, and Rwanda Association of Female Journalists, petitioned relevant authorities calling for “urgent” action against the preacher and the radio station.

In a public hearing at RMC offices in Kigali, yesterday, which was also attended by Amazing Grace Radio proprietor, Gregory Ryan Shoof, the Executive Committee of the Self-regulatory body resolved to write to RURA, the regulator, to shut down the station for three months.

The management of Amazing Grace was also tasked to put in writing an apology to Rwandan women while Niyibikora was asked to apologise within 48 hours.

Niyibikora was supposed to attend the public hearing but did not. Efforts to reach him through his known mobile phone have been futile for the last two days.

Shoof, however, was instantly apologetic for Niyibikora’s sermon and claimed that at the time of the airing he was out of town.

He also claims that he currently doubles as the director of programming at the station after losing the head of programming last month over financial constraints.

He also noted that he is yet to listen to the entire sermon citing language barrier, adding that he has managed to have half of the sermon translated into English.

Shoof also said that he had since urged Niyibikora to return to the radio and “clear the air” on the allegations but the latter has not responded.

Meanwhile, the National Public Prosecution Authority recently tasked the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) at Police to probe Niyibikora over public incitement.

Amazing Grace Radio proprietor Gregory Ryan Shoof arrives at the Rwanda Media Commission premises. Timothy Kisambira
Amazing Grace Radio proprietor Gregory Ryan Shoof goes through the English interpretation of the sermon of Pastor Nicolas Niyibikora. Timothy Kisambira
Emmanuel Mugisha the Executive secretary of RMC takes through Gregory Ryan Shoof (fore-ground) the articles that his media house violated. Timothy Kisambira