Last Friday, two journalists faced the full force of the law. Agnes Uwimana, publisher of the Umurabyo paper and Saidati Mukabibi, an editor, have been sentenced to 17 and 7 years in jail, respectively, for charges ranging from defamation, causing state insecurity and sectarianism.
They were both sentenced because of articles they wrote in their paper. I think that the whole case is regrettable. I, unfortunately, am barely literate in Kinyarwanda and I didn’t actually read the offending articles.
But I was present in court while they were being sentenced and the judges, during their ruling read excerpts from the paper and I must say, if the matter wasn’t so serious I would been rolling about the court floor, clutching my sides.
Talking about imaginary clan rivalries and what not, these two writers obviously had a few screws loose. I spent my university years in law classes and if I was their defense attorney I would have attempted to plead insanity on my clients’ part.
At least if I did so, I wouldn’t have had to explain the nonsense they wrote. I’d simply have shown the judge the writings and asked “does this seem like something a sane person would write”?
I wouldn’t have dared use the ‘freedom of speech’ argument because although Rwandans have this constitutional right, it comes with responsibilities. These journalists, in their writings, were grossly irresponsible. I agree with the Prosecution that some of the articles could have caused riots.
Luckily for us all, Umurabyo’s circulation is barely a hundred copies, or we’d have had a problem on our hands.
The fate of these two women is certainly unfortunate; as a journalist myself I hate to see colleagues go to jail but I also feel for those who have to prosecute them.
The National Public Prosecution Authority cannot be seen to prosecute some people while ignoring others. What would it mean for our own rule of law if some people were deemed to be above the law? Should journalists be allowed to say and do things which other citizens cannot?
Reporters Without Borders has called our judicial system “cruel and stubborn”. I must ask, have these Parisian reporters ever read the writings of the journalists they are defending? And I must ask, why didn’t they defend Hassan Ngeze and his Hutu Ten Commandments when he was convicted and sentenced to 35 years by the ICTR in Arusha?
I must disagree with their assessment of our judiciary. The judiciary doesn’t make the law, they interpret it to the best of their knowledge.
The people’s representatives, the Members of Parliament, enacted the “cruel” genocide ideology and anti-sectarian laws because they all understood that an even greater cruelty had been visited upon the Rwandan people. We’d seen all before and the MP’s were doing everything they could to make sure that wouldn’t happen again.
These two women have fallen foul of our collective will; we don’t have to apologize for it.
On another note, I’ve been watching the events in Egypt with a certain amount of bemusement. The people of Egypt have decided, on their own violation, to attempt to push the Mubarak administration as is their right.
What is amusing is that, after years and years of the West looking at Mubarak as their ‘blue-eyed North African boy’ they are turning on him, and saying that they are standing behind the ‘people’.
The ‘people’ haven’t asked for your opinions good sirs. It’s their government, and it’s their choice if Mubarak stays until September or leaves tomorrow.
In all honestly, I can count on one hand the times that the ‘peoples’ aspirations went hand in hand with Western interests as well.
I’m not saying that it cannot happen, all I’m saying is that the Egyptian people can speak for themselves. They don’t need our help.