Newspaper editor goes into hiding

New York, August 9, 2006—The editor of the private newspaper Umuco has gone into hiding following official criticism of articles in his paper and a police summons, according to several local sources. Bonaventure Bizumuremyi also complained of receiving threatening phone calls, the sources said. The incidents come days after another Umuco journalist, Jean-Léonard Rugambage, was freed from jail after 11 months behind bars.

Bizumuremyi was summoned on August 3 to appear before the High Council of the Press, an official media regulator, in connection with articles in the July 26 edition of Umuco, CPJ sources said. Bizumuremyi did not attend, but the council ruled that several articles were “unethical” and needed correcting. The same day, Bizumuremyi received a summons to appear before police. The journalist did not respond because he was given only one hour to answer it and a lawyer was not available, the sources said. They said Bizumuremyi went into hiding after police came looking for him at his home and office.

The four articles singled out by the council were highly critical of President Paul Kagame, carrying headlines suggesting that he is tired and that his regime is no different than that of predecessor Juvénal Habyarimana. They also criticize the judicial system, particularly with reference to the trial of Col. Patrick Karegeya, the former spy chief now in prison.

In a telephone interview with CPJ, Council President Dominique Karekezi said his agency’s problem centered on what he believed was a misprint that had insulted the president. He said he believed the matter was “banal” and that it had been settled.

“We’re deeply troubled by the continuing harassment of Umuco journalists and perplexed by police involvement in what appears to be a dispute over coverage,” CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon said. “We call on the Rwandan authorities to stop this intimidation.”

Bizumuremyi was also forced into hiding in January after four unidentified intruders carrying clubs and knives came to his Kigali home. Umuco reporter Rugambage, freed on July 28, spent nearly 11 months in jail on what observers believe was a trumped-up charge. The status of his case is still unclear and there are fears for his security. For more information, see CPJ’s July 31 alert.