Last week, Rwanda’s Media High Council asked about 30 radio stations and newspapers to apply for permits. The media are currently de facto banned from operation until a fresh request is approved.
Reporters Without Borders (RSF)- a French-based watchdog, have accused Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame of suspending some 30 media organizations, infringing on democracy and undermining the fairness of the forthcoming national elections.
“With just a week to go to a presidential election on 9 August, the Rwandan authorities are openly flouting the rules of the democratic game,” RSF said in a statement. According to RSF, this is a ploy by Rwanda’s Media High Council to suspend these mediums from operation.
A reporter who claimed to have uncovered evidence connecting the government to the attempted assassination of a Rwandan general exiled in South Africa was found dead last month. However, Paul Kagame’s regime denies any involvement with the death of the journalist.
“Press freedom violation, including the jailing of journalists, the closure of news media and the murder of a newspaper editor a month ago, have intensified in the run-up to the election,” RSF statement continued.
Rwanda’s Media High Council only approved 19 radio stations and 22 newspapers considered to comply with its rules.
“The aim is to clamp down on the press and prevent journalists from doing their job as independent and impartial observers of the election process.”
Paul Kagame’s regime has been criticized by the international community, rights group and section of Rwanda’s public for restricting media and political freedom ahead of the Augusts 9 elections.
France has called on Kagame’s regime to provide a pre-electoral context respectful of fundamental freedoms and the democratic rules.
“Paris supports the action of all those who defend the right to inform and that is the reason why we condemned with the greatest firmness the murder, on June 24, of Jean-Leonard Rugambage, deputy editor of the biweekly Umuvugizi,” French foreign ministry deputy spokeswoman Christine Fages told reporters in a press briefing on Tuesday.