In Rwanda, government strips new journal’s license after first edition

New York, June 12, 2007—Rwanda’s Information Minister revoked the publication license of a newspaper without a required court order three days after the paper’s first edition.

The Weekly Post, a privately owned, English-language weekly, did not publish this week after Information Minister Laurent Nkusi revoked its authorization, according to a copy of an official letter obtained by CPJ. Rwanda’s press law requires a court order to close down a newspaper, said legal expert François Rwangampuhwe.

In a telephone interview with CPJ, Nkusi said the ruling was “perhaps” linked to “inaccuracies” in the paper’s application, but declined to comment further. Managing director and chief editor Sulah Nuwamanya denied the allegations and told CPJ that Nkusi didn’t give the paper a chance to defend itself.

“We call on the authorities to explain this ban and to follow due process and Rwandan law,” said Joel Simon, CPJ’s executive director. “We are concerned that this action was carried out arbitrarily.”

The High Council of the Press (HCP) received a formal complaint from the paper today and will look into the matter, HCP Executive Secretary Patrice Mulama told CPJ. Under Rwanda’s press law, the HCP has authority to give advice on decisions to ban or suspend media outlets. HCP was informed of the ruling several days after the fact, he said.

Nuwamanya, who plans to challenge the decision in court, said the ruling was not linked to the paper’s content.

The Weekly Post was founded by former journalists of the pro-government daily The New Times.