Amnesty International report misrepresents reality - Minister

KIGALI - The Government of Rwanda is accusing Amnesty International (AI) of ignoring the significant progress the country has registered and instead, choosing to criticise it.In its report titled “Unsafe to Speak Out: Restrictions on Freedom of Expression in Rwanda” released yesterday, AI alleges that the Rwandan government “tightly” controls freedom of speech and expression using vague laws.

KIGALI - The Government of Rwanda is accusing Amnesty International (AI) of ignoring the significant progress the country has registered and instead, choosing to criticise it.

In its report titled “Unsafe to Speak Out: Restrictions on Freedom of Expression in Rwanda” released yesterday, AI alleges that the Rwandan government “tightly” controls freedom of speech and expression using vague laws.

Reacting to the report, the Minister of Justice, Tharcisse Karugarama, dismissed the claims, saying that freedom of expression is guaranteed by the constitution, and the country has a vibrant and growing media.

He pointed out that just as the country is on course to achieve a diverse political discourse, Amnesty once again chooses to misrepresent reality “in an inaccurate and highly partisan report”.

“In today’s report, Amnesty International refuses to acknowledge the significant developments that directly address some of its own recommendations, preferring instead to make unsubstantiated claims about Rwanda.

“The rule of law, free and fair elections and freedom of speech are the hallmark of politics in Rwanda today,” Karugarama emphasised.

He added that the government welcomes constructive partnerships with various groups as it endeavours to best serve the very people who put it in place, but warned that any such partnerships must be based on facts and mutual respect.

Karugarama said that the government recently announced that Rwanda’s media will regulate itself and that the state broadcaster would be transformed to a public one, as well as new Access to Information act that is in the pipeline, but none of these are recognised.

The minister noted that among other things which AI fails to mention is the fact that Rwanda has more than 35 privately owned newspapers and 12 privately owned radio stations.

“Four international radio stations - VOA, BBC, Radio France International and Deutsche Welle are also based here and are free to say whatever they wish.

“Any review of the headlines of independent print and broadcast press will show that the President and the government are regularly criticised, even insulted, without facing any action,” Karugarama said.

Karugarama went on to say that like many countries around the world, Rwanda has laws anti-Genocide ideology to ensure that the country never reverts to the hatred and divisionism of the past.

He added that as the country continues to rebuild itself and develop its justice system, a number of statutes are being amended to meet the current standards, something that should be commended.

“Accordingly, the laws on the Genocide ideology and divisionism are currently under review and we will amend them as is best for Rwanda and our people.

“Amnesty International is choosing either to ignore the progress Rwanda is making, or it is unaware of the reality on the ground, but we will continue in our efforts to transform our society, including the legal system, for the benefit of all Rwandans.” Karugarama said.

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