KIGALI - The Media High Council (MHC), announced Friday, that even though it respects the high court’s verdict – sentencing two journalists of the weekly tabloid, Umurabyo, to prison terms, it remained concerned by the continued criminalization of defamation.
This comes after the two – Agnes Uwimana Nkusi and Saidath Mukakibibi, were convicted for committing crimes of ethnic discrimination, genocide ideology, defamation and inciting civil disobedience.
“MHC is also particularly concerned that this conviction has been contributed to by a criminal defamation charge, which still carries a one-year prison sentence,” reads part of an MHC press release.
“We strongly believe that defamation involves damage to an individual’s reputation as opposed to harm against public order. We therefore continue to call upon Rwandan lawmakers to amend this penal code provision so that in future, those found guilty are not subjected to a prison sentence.”
Gaspard Safari, the president of Rwanda Journalists Association (RJA) told The New Times that “the sentencing of the two journalists is sad, but it should be a reminder to all of us that ethical journalism is key to professionalism.”
“We urge and request the government at this point in time to decriminalize defamation, as a matter of urgency,” Safari said.
“This verdict sends a significant message to the media fraternity that professional ethics and values are central to the trade and that these values transcend individual sentiments and emotions to safeguard society’s common good,” reads the statement.
Uwimana and Mukakibibi told court that they would appeal against the ruling.