In the past few weeks, there has been a story of an unknown woman by the names of Yvonne Idamange who out of the blue stormed the streets of YouTube holding a bible and uttering strong words inciting the population to stage an insurrection and many other statements that demean the genocide against the Tutsi, although herself claimed to be a genocide survivor. She was later arrested by the police where in the process she hit and injured a police officer on the head using a bottle! Western media and “human rights defenders” as usual raised their voices that the woman should be let free because what she said was within her rights of exercising freedom of speech and expression. The western media again gave the little-known woman prominence calling her “a strong human rights activist and a fierce critic of the Rwandan government.” Although her utterances went against the established laws of the land, foreigners feel happy to dress Idamange in the character as a human rights defender and a political figure, which she has never been. This kind of attitude by foreigners on Rwanda is treacherous and immoral, with the intent to take Rwanda back to its dark past. Donald Trump called for people to storm Capitol Hill and he was widely condemned and faced an impeachment trial for insurrection incitement. Even some of the Senators who voted for Trump’s acquittal testified that he went against the law. What Idamange said was beyond what Trump did, because she not only incited people to revolt against the government but also made statements that are punishable under genocide denial law. She also spreading rumors meant to instill fear and panic among the population. Even if Idamange is a genocide survivor as she claims, it does not provide her with immunity to commit genocide denial; since the offense is not committed by non-genocide survivors only. She could have been the first. Hiding behind the banner of freedom of speech and expression to break the law is unacceptable anywhere in the world. Donald Trump was banned permanently from using social media platforms like Twitter citing possible use of hate speech and misinformation. Those who consider Idamange as a victim of government crackdown on free speech and silencing critics are not sincere with themselves and do not wish Rwanda well. Freedom of speech and expression must be exercised in accordance with the law. There is no free speech “right” to incite violence and lawlessness. Free speech should not disregard reason, conscience, responsibility and common sense. However, with the emergence of social media platforms in the past few years, has resulted in a global explosion of harmful speech, genocide denial and disinformation taking advantage of loopholes in the regulation of the free-to-access social media channels. Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) which people cite when exercising freedom of expression, does not provide an open door to any form of boundless free speech and expression. The article is either misinterpreted or misunderstood. Let me point out that the drafters of the UDHR were well-intentioned but made one dangerous assumption; that it was obvious to any right-thinking individual while applying article 19, that reason, conscience and common sense would always prevail without being specified in the article. It is clear, therefore, that if article 19, is considered as a dogma and looked at in isolation of other provisions and intent of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, then this creates a short-sighted assumption that free speech has no limits. For example, article 1 of the UDHR says: “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood”. The fact that human beings have reason and conscience, helps to use them in all aspects of their lives, including personal judgment of the purpose, intent and possible actions and reactions of the application of free speech and free expression, hence the two articles complement each other. For purposes of comparison, let us again consider article 24, of the same declaration which says; “Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay”. If this article was lifted and applied literally by contractual employees, some would, for example, abscond from work any time they wanted claiming that article 24 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights gives them the right of unlimited rest and leisure! Come to think about what happened in Rwanda during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. In what was called the ‘media trial’ at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, three men were tried, convicted and handed sentences above 30 years in prison for what they said or wrote! Similarly, in a separate trial, musician Simon Bikindi was convicted by the same court for what he sang and died in prison while serving his sentence. Similarly, Leo Mugesera, among the crimes of genocide for he was convicted included public statements he made calling for the Tutsi to be returned to Abyssinia through River Nyabarongo. In extraditing him to Rwanda in 2012, Canadian courts based on this incendiary speech to determine that he had a prima facie case to answer. The now Genocide convicts and their defense lawyers always cited exercise of their freedoms of speech and expression. The trial, conviction and sentencing by the ICTR of the “media trial” was evidence that even under international law, there is a red line that cannot be crossed while exercising these freedoms. I saw a group of people mainly composed of genocide deniers on YouTube streets “demonstrating” claiming Idamange should be let free because she exercised her rights, but ignore to consider that her rights should not go above the law and should not harm others. Many Rwandans were harmed by her words that not only breached the law, but also lacked reason, conscience, responsibility and common sense. The UDHR is neither a law nor a dogmatic code of conduct. It is a document that states basic rights and fundamental freedoms to which all human beings are entitled. The provisions of the UDHR serve to form the general human rights principles over which individual nations align their domestic legislation regarding basic rights and freedoms, and does not disregard national laws. Some media practitioners, human rights watchdogs and activists conveniently misinterpret article 19, which does not in any way endorse the content of free speech and expression. The genuine collective pursuit of the common good, universal justice and human rights, regardless of diversity in form of culture, religion, race, color, society values, etc, has been eroded by hypocrisy, greed, individualism and moral deficiency, which the makers of the UDHR could not foresee. Some of these declarations have been overtaken by time and need to be aligned to the realities of the present generation. It is obvious that when freedom of speech and expression is abused it is likely to create social disorder, violence and in extreme cases death of innocent lives as was the case in Rwanda in 1994. The unregulated social media platforms that have escalated hate speech, genocide denial and incitement to violence cannot be left free and those who abuse their use must be held accountable. Gerald Mbanda is a veteran journalist and a former Head of Media Development Department at Rwanda Governance Board. He is the author of a book on China and Rwanda; Effective Leadership is Key to Transformational Governance.