The High Court, yesterday, sentenced two journalists of the weekly tabloid, Umurabyo, Agnes Nkusi Uwimana, the editor and her co-writer, Saidath Mukakibibi, to 17 years and 7 years in jail respectively.
Uwimana was also fined Rwf250,000 after she was found guilty of threatening state security by publishing material with an aim of inciting public disorder and creating ethnic divisions.
Mukakibibi on the other hand was sentenced by the High Court to 7 years in jail for being an accomplice in crimes that Uwimana was found guilty of.
The duo, arrested in July last year, pleaded not guilty on all charges before judge Pio Mugabo. The judge read out the verdict after a five hour delay.
The Judge considered the arguments of the Prosecutor, Augustin Nkusi, that prior to their arrest, the two published articles in the tabloid with the intent of inciting the public against the government and also deliberately wanted to pit people against each other using ethnic divisions.
“The court finds that your articles, for example in the issue 29, clearly showed the intent and motive of the two of you, which was to incite the people against an elected government. It is deliberate from the language you used and the fact that you never bothered to speak to both sides in the story, clearly demonstrates your intentions,” said Judge Mugabo.
“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 and it’s in this spirit that the two of you have been found guilty of breaking the law,” the Judge said.
Earlier in the case, 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.
The two were also found guilty of defamation by publishing articles and photographs that directly attack the person of President Paul Kagame with an aim of inciting the masses against the Head of State.
Court also considered prosecutions argument 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 is believed to have 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 has declined, as well as many other unfounded allegations which the court said were intended to turn the people against their leader.
The accused were also found guilty 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.
The two said that they would appeal the ruling.