Three news outlets were yesterday ordered to retract a story that was adjudged by the Rwanda Media Commission to be defamatory against an incarcerated politician.
The three outlets; Umusingi newspaper, Radio One FM, and rwandapaparazzi.net, a web-based news outlet, were reprimanded for a story published a few months ago accusing Victoire Ingabire of witchcraft.
The story, allegedly originally published by the online publication, claimed that Ingabire, who is serving a 15-year sentence, intended to poison a child she was holding in a photo published along with the story.
The photo was allegedly taken during celebrations to mark International Women’s Day in Kigali Central Prison, where she is incarcerated.
The story was later printed by Umusingi, a vernacular newspaper, and aired on Radio One during their press review programme.
The three media houses were ordered by the Commission’s ethics committee to apologise to Ingabire, whose lawyer Gatera Gashabana petitioned on her behalf.
The committee, in a ruling delivered yesterday, said the online publication admitted to fabricating the story.
Whereas Umusingi was not represented, rwandapaparazzi.net representatives accepted to write an apology, while Angelibert Mutabaruka, a presenter on Radio One, said they were ready to read on air the story once published by the original source.
“We got the story from Umusingi newspaper and rwandapaparazzi.net and as soon as they publish the apology, we shall air it in our press review programme,” Mutabaruka said.
It is not clear how the decision will be enforced because RMC does not have powers of prosecution.
Speaking to The New Times, Prince Bahati, a member of the ethics committee, said the three media houses are obliged to heed the ruling since they submit to the authority of the commission.
“We are self-regulatory and not self-statutory. We don’t have police, we don’t jail but we just expose what is not professional,” he said.
Since its inception last year, RMC has received more than 30 complaints from the public accusing media practitioners of defamation.