Tuesday, June 29, 2010

RWANDA: Newspaper editor murdered

The Writers in Prison Committee of International PEN (WiPC) protests in the strongest possible terms the murder of Jean Leonard Rugambage, deputy editor of the banned newspaper Umuvugizi, who was shot dead outside his home on 24 June 2010. Rugambage had reportedly been followed and threatened prior to his death and it is believed that he was targeted for an article he had published that day alleging government involvement in the attempted assassination of a exiled former Rwandan army commander. The WiPC calls on the Rwandan authorities to carry out an independent investigation of Rugambage's murder as a matter of urgency and to bring those responsible to justice, as well as to guarantee journalists' safety in the run-up to the August 2010 presidential elections.

The following is an Urgent Action appeal issued by Amnesty International on 25 June 2010. Please send appeal letters following the guidelines provided by Amnesty below:


UA: 143/10 Index: AFR 47/004/2010 Rwanda Date: 25 June 2010

Rwandan journalist Jean Leonard Rugambage was killed on 24 June. Authorities must establish an independent commission of enquiry into the killing and ensure other journalists can work in safety.

Jean Leonard Rugambage, the Deputy Editor of Rwandan newspaper, Umuvugizi, was shot dead outside his home in the Rwandan capital, Kigali on 24 June 2010. Jean Leonard Rugambage is the first Rwandan journalist murdered in recent years.
Jean Leonard Rugambage returned home around 10pm on 24 June 2010. He was shot dead as he reached the gate of his home in the Kigali suburb, Nyamirambo. His exiled Managing Editor-in-Chief, Jean-Bosco Gasasira, has stated that witnesses who heard the gunshots saw the unknown assailant drive away in a car. Police arrived at the scene soon afterwards, but Jean Leonard Rugambage was already dead.

The Rwanda Police have confirmed that Jean Leonard Rugambage body remained at Kigali's Police Hospital and would not be released for burial until a later date. Police investigations have been opened.

Jean Leonard Rugambage had been investigating the shooting of the exiled former Chief-of-Staff of the Rwandan Army, Kayumba Nyamwasa, which took place in Johannesburg, South Africa, on 19 June 2010. Umuvugizi had published an on-line article on 24 June 2010, the day of Jean Leonard Rugambage's murder, alleging that Rwandan intelligence officials were linked to the shooting. In the days before his murder, Jean Leonard Rugambage had told colleagues that he felt that the surveillance on him had intensified.


Jean Leonard Rugambage's newspaper, Umuvugizi, was suspended in April 2010 until after Rwanda's presidential elections scheduled for August 2010. The Rwandan High Media Council, a regulatory body aligned with the government, suspended Umuvugizi for six months alleging they had incited opposition to the government and divided the army. Umuseso, another private newspaper, was also banned for six months. The High Media Council later started court proceedings to initiate a permanent ban against both papers. After the suspension, Umuvugizi continued to publish on their website, launched in May, though their website was not accessible from within Rwanda.

Jean-Leonard Rugambage became the Acting Editor of Umuvugizi after the Managing Editor, Jean-Bosco Gasasira, fled Rwanda in April 2010 after threats following Umuvugizi's suspension. Jean-Bosco Gasasira had been brutally assaulted in February 2007 by unidentified men with iron bars. Prior to the attack, Jean-Bosco Gasasira, had also published several articles critical of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), the ruling political party.

Over recent years, Rwandan journalists working for non-state media have frequently been threatened and physically assaulted. Criminal sanctions have also been used against them to stifle freedom of expression. There have been no known cases of Rwandan journalists murdered in Rwanda in recent years, but several journalists have fled Rwanda for their safety.
Such an attack comes, as the space for independent reporting fast diminishes before Rwanda's August 2010 presidential elections. Amnesty International has called on the Rwandan authorities to respect the rights to freedom of association and freedom of expression and to ensure that journalists can work freely, independently and with protection from state authorities.

UA: 143/10 Index: AFR 47/004/2010 Issue Date: 25 June 2010


Useful links
Report by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) (25 June 2010):
Report by Reporters Without Borders (25 June 2010):
http://en.rsf.org/rwanda-newspaper-s-deputy-editor-gunned-25-06-2010,37812.html; http://fr.rsf.org/rwanda-le-journaliste-jean-leonard-25-06-2010,37811.html (French)
Report by BBC (28 June 2010):

International Pen

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