The police have released the identity of the officer who assaulted The New Times (TNT) photographer George Baryamwisaki on Tuesday. He is Corporal Epimaque Kaberuka.
The Commissioner General of Police, Andrew Rwigamba, said yesterday that he ordered the arrest of Kaberuka.
Rwigamba said: “He (Kaberuka) is in custody for the crimes he committed while on duty and he’s going to be charged soon. That was an act of indiscipline by the officer.”
Kaberuka faces more than six months in jail and dismissal from the force if found guilty.
“As the Commissioner General of Police, I am giving the media full assurance of immunity during their work; no policeman should temper with a journalist while on duty,” Rwigamba added.
Baryamwisaki a.k.a Barya and TNT staff reporter, Ignatius Ssuuna, were covering a story of hawkers being chased off the streets in Geporoso, Remera, a Kigali City suburb.
On taking his photograph while arresting hawkers, Kaberuka pounced on Barya, handcuffed him, repeatedly slapped and kicked him as he dragged him to Remera Police Station.
The hapless photographer and his colleague Ssuuna were held for hours at the station but later released after higher authorities both from TNT and the police intervened.
When asked whether the Police would take a bold step and apologise to either Barya or the media company, Rwigamba said: “You are taking the issue too far, there are procedures of settling such cases.”
Meanwhile, the incident has attracted condemnation from journalists and rights groups.
An anti-torture organisation, FACT Rwanda said in a statement: ‘FACT Rwanda strongly condemns this barbaric conduct by the police officer, with a deep sense of concern. We strongly demand the perpetrator be brought to justice.’
It added: ‘By any standard this was torture; Intentionally inflicted, severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, on a person…for a specific purpose as to obtain (from him or a third person) information, confession, punishment for an act committed or suspected of having committed, or to intimidate or coerce him or a third person based on discrimination of any kind...acting in an official capacity.’
Dr Charles Ntare, the Executive Secretary of FACT Rwanda, signed the statement.
And a Canadian journalism scholar, Allan Thompson, who is in the country as part of his Rwanda Initiative project, suggested that government officials need to undergo training on how to relate with the media.