Rwandan paper shuts after 'Kagame is a sociopath' story

“Declaring that he is subject to serious threats, the publisher of the fortnightly Ishema, Fidele Gakire, decided on August 28, 2011, in consultation with his editorial committee, to suspend publication of the newspaper for one month,” the Paris-based media watchdog said.

Speaking anonymously by telephone, a member of Ishema’s editorial staff confirmed the monthly suspension, following “difficulties with the High Media Council”.

“But there’s no question of a definitive suspension,” the staff member said.

According to RSF, the affair began with the publication by Ishema in mid-July 2011, of an article that the High Media Council, a state regulatory body, considered defamatory to the president of the republic, Paul Kagame.”

The opinion piece, published in English, suggested that “President Kagame is a sociopath”.

RSF said that the decision taken by Ishema “reflects unease that independent publications often feel in Rwanda”.

“After being taken to task by the pro-government High Media Council, the newspaper apologised and its publisher was sanctioned. He has nonetheless continued to be the target of threats and a smear campaign and this has prompted him to temporarily suspend operations.”

This incident arises as Rwandan politicians and journalists have opened a debate on the self-regulation of the media in the small central African country, where Kagame’s then rebels ended a genocide that claimed about 800 000 lives in 1994.

A draft law is on the drawing-board which would transfer regulation of the media from the High Media Council to a new forum made up of professionals. As a step on the way to establishing this self-regulatory body, Rwandan journalists have adopted a new code of ethics and professional conduct.—AFP

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