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Former Radio Rwanda journalist sentenced to life imprisonment

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders is concerned about the amount of money that the Information Ministry is proposing to demand as minimum start-up capital to launch a new newspaper, radio station or TV channel. The proposed sums have not yet been submitted to the cabinet for approval.

"Given the economic situation of Rwandan journalists, it is clear that the sums that the government plans to demand are prohibitive and will just prevent the creation of new media," Reporters Without Borders said, urging the cabinet to reject the proposals.

"After the temporary suspension of the BBC and an independent weekly, and the imposition of jail sentences on several journalists, we condemn the government's obvious intention of asserting complete control over the news media in the run-up to next year's presidential election," the press freedom organisation added.

The proposed new minimum start-up capital requirements were revealed by Ignatius Kabagambe, Director-General of the Information Ministry, during a meeting with reporters and editors on 22 September 2009 at which he also announced a reduction in the annual amount that foreign journalists would have to pay for official accreditation.

Kabagambe said the minimum start-up capital would be 23 million Rwandan francs (US$41,000) for a newspaper, 45 million Rwandan francs (US$81,000) for a radio station and 105 million Rwandan francs (US$187,500) for a TV station.

In another development, Dominique Makeli, a journalist who worked for state-owned Radio Rwanda, was sentenced to life imprisonment in the Kigali district of Gikondo on 19 September by a gacaca, one of the popular courts set up specially to try cases linked to the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

The former journalist was convicted of inciting genocide on the national radio station and holding meetings to plan the genocide and attacks on Tutsis in the central city of Kabgayi. The court also found him guilty of criminal association, attempted murder and being a member of the highest level of genocide planners.

After being detained for 14 years, Makeli had previously been acquitted of genocide and released on 13 October 2008.

In an unrelated development, two journalists were given jail sentences (two years in one case and three months in the other) in the first week of August while a weekly newspaper was suspended for three months.

See the previous release on Rwanda:

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