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Journalist cleared after three months in prison

(RSF/IFEX) - 31 July 2012 - Habarugira Epaphrodite, a former journalist with the community radio station Huguka, was acquitted by the Muhanga district court in southern Rwanda yesterday after being held in custody since 24 April.

Epaphrodite was charged with “minimizing” the 1994 Tutsi genocide and “spreading genocide ideology”. The prosecution had asked for a six-year prison sentence and a fine of 200,000 Rwandan francs (approx. 260 euros). The judge found the charges were without foundation.

“We are relieved at this verdict,” Reporters Without Borders said. “However, the fact of the matter is that Habarugira Epaphrodite has spent three months in prison for no reason. The justice authorities have blown a simple on-air slip of the tongue out of all proportion. We hope that the journalist can quickly find work and that this incident will not harm his career.”

Epaphrodite was arrested after reading a report about ceremonies marking the 18th anniversary of the genocide, in which he mixed up the Kinyarwanda words for “victims” and “survivors,” making it sound as though he approved of the genocide.

He was fired by the radio station and proceedings were brought against him.

In another case, Idriss Gassana Byiringiro, a journalism student and reporter for the newspaper Chronicles, was also freed pending trial. The Kacyru lower court in Kigali ordered his release on bail to allow him to continue his studies at Butare University. He has to report to the court every week and must not leave the capital except to attend classes. His case is expected to go to trial at the end of August.
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