Two journalists of the controversial weekly tabloid, Umurabyo, Agnes Nkusi Uwimana, the editor and her co-writer, Saidath Mukakibibi, were yesterday charged before the High Court with threatening state security by publishing material with an aim of inciting public disorder and creating ethnic divisions.
The duo, arrested in July last year and subsequently denied bail, pleaded not guilty on all charges before judge Pie Mugabo.
The prosecutor, Augustin Nkusi, told court that prior to their arrest, the two published articles in the tabloid with the intent of inciting the public against the ruling government and also deliberately wanted to pit people against each other using ethnic divisions.
“Their articles, for example in their issue 29, clearly show the intent and motive of the two, which was to incite the people against an elected government. It is deliberate from the language they use, and the fact that they never bothered to speak to both sides in the story, clearly demonstrates their intentions,” said Nkusi.
“Article 12 of the Media Law indicates that while journalists have exclusive rights and freedoms of speech and expression, there are laws that they cannot break”.
The Prosecutor told court that Uwimana and Mukakibibi published falsehoods which were not only inciting the public, but could also destabilise the country’s army and police forces, hence threatening the security of the state.
Nkusi is also charged with defamation by publishing articles and photographs that are directly attacking the person of President Paul Kagame with an aim of inciting the masses against the Head of State.
Court also heard that Uwimana published false allegations on the country’s forces by alleging that Lt. Gen Fred Ibingira was responsible for the grenade attacks in the city, the reason why he was transferred to the Eastern Province.
Mukakibibi on the other hand alleged that President Kagame was not the “right person” to replace President Juvenal Habyarimana because more people have died during his regime, the economy and education declined, as well as many other unfounded allegations which the prosecution says were intended to turn the people against their leader.
The accused were also accused of propagating ethnic divisions by alleging that some ethnic tribes and regions of the country are favoured over others, with an aim creating divisions in the society based on ethnicity.
On her part, Uwimana together with her lawyer Evariste Nsabyeyezue pleaded for leniency and a lighter sentence, upon conviction.
Uwimana blamed her mistakes on lack of journalistic capacity and argued that at the time of her arrest, she had been cautioned by the Media High Council (MHC) and was ready to change.
Prosecution alleges that the duo committed serious crimes through their July-June 2010 publications issue no.21, 23, 28 and 29 of Umurabyo aimed at inciting violence in public, discrimination, sectarianism and Genocide denial through baseless rumours.
The Prosecutor asked court to sentence Uwimana to a total of 33 years in prison for all the crimes and a fine of Rwf 800,000.
Uwimana’s lawyer pleaded for leniency by reducing the sentence because his client is living positively with HIV/AIDS and her health could deteriorate fast in jail. A medical certificate indicating her status was handed to court.
It is the second time Uwimana appears in court over similar charges, and according to the penal code, recidivism-when one is charged for the same crimes they had served an earlier sentence, amounts to 15 years in jail.
In 2007, Uwimana had been sentenced to two years in jail over related charges, and served half of the sentence before she returned into the practice.
On the other hand prosecution asked court to sentence Mukakibi to 10 years in prison for threatening state security and 2 years for promoting ethnic divisions as well as a fine of Rwf200, 000.
The verdict will be read on February 4.