Paul Kagame among the predators of freedom of informationBy Our Reporter
In it’s press release today on the world freedom day , reporter without borders defined president Kagame as a president with a thin face, tall figure, intellectual’s glasses and conservative suits, who looks more like a modern, Internet-savvy defining him as a politician than a former guerrilla chief and war lord, who also seized power in the wake of the 1994 genocide and has since used a reconciliation process to bolster his authority and neutralize the opposition.
President since 2000 and re-elected in 2010, Kagame does not tolerate embarrassing questions at news conferences, often denigrates journalists and brands outspoken media as “Radio Mille Collines.” Every year several Rwandan journalists decide to go into exile because they find the atmosphere unbearable in their home country. This does not worry President Kagame, who refers to these journalists as “mercenaries” and “bums.”
Two women journalists were given sentences of 7 and 17 years in prison in early 2011 for criticizing the president. A year later their sentences were reduced to three years and four years respectively.
Umuvugizi deputy editor Jean-Léonard Rugambage was murdered in Kigali in June 2010 because of investigating the intelligence services and in particular their attempt to murder an exiled general. Umuvugizi and another newspaper Umuseso have for long been two of the regime’s biggest bugbears.
Defamation, invasion of privacy and insulting the president are the charges preferred by the information ministry and the High Media Council which is not an independent regulatory authority. To make it worse anyone thinking of launching a newspaper, radio station or TV station is currently required to show an exorbitant amount of start-up capital of 41,000 euros in order to obtain a permit which is a good way of discouraging media diversity.
A journalist killed every five days, six new “predators” brings total to 41
Reporters Without Borders also condemned furious pace of physical attacks on news providers and reports that a total of 21 journalists ,6 netizens and citizen journalists were killed since the start of 2012, many of them live in war zones such as Somalia and Syria. It’s on a rate of one news provider being killed every after five days.
Reporters Without Borders released an updated list of world’s predators of the freedom to inform, a list that has increased to 41 members.
“Let there be no witness to our crimes” and “let there be no voice but ours” – these are the watchwords of authoritarian regimes and armed groups that are hostile to freedom of information.
With crackdowns on protest in Arab countries ,suppression of political opposition, criticism and reporting in other parts of the world, the first four months of 2012 were especially violent for those who try to provide news and information.
New predators of the freedom to inform
Reporter without borders’s report of a quarter of 2012 clearly showed the world’s predators of the freedom to inform led by Syria’s Bashar Al-Assad and Somalia’s Islamist militias who are capable of behaving like outright butchers.
The 2011 revolts toppled several despots who were on the predators list such as Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi and Yemen’s Ali Abdallah Saleh but they unfortunately did not reduce the overall number of these enemies of information.
Six new predators have joined this evil “club” in 2012: Boko Haram an Islamist group that spreads terror in Nigeria, Egypt’s Supreme Council of the Armed Forces which has taken over from deposed dictator Hosni Mubarak as regards violating freedom of information, the Somali federal government’s information minister who is responsible for harassment and intimidation of the media Vasif Talibov, the all-powerful leader of Azerbaijan’s “Autonomous Republic” of Nakhchivan, Pakistan’s intelligence agencies and Kim Jong-un who perpetuated North Korea’s predatory dictatorship on the death of his father King Jong-il.
There is a growing trend for countries to have more than one predator, Six countries have been ranked to have two. Somalia has as the Islamist militia Al-Shabaab as well as the information minister. Pakistan has the Taliban as well as the intelligence agencies. Azerbaijan has President Ilham Aliev as well as Nakhchivan’s strongman Talibov who has turned his chiefdom into a laboratory for the repressive methods that Aliev applies in the rest of the country.
Russia not only has Vladimir Putin but also his Chechen “guard-dog,” Ramzan Kadyrov, who shares his master’s taste for forceful words and gestures. The Palestinian Territories have both the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza, both of which use their security forces to harass journalists. And finally, the Islamic Republic of Iran has both Supreme Leader Khamenei and President Ahmadinejad, who despite their rivalry agree on gagging the media. Iran is still ranked with Eritrea, China, Turkey and Syria as one of the world’s biggest prisons for journalists.
Other presidents such as Djibouti’s Ismail Omar Guelleh, Sudan’s Omar al-Bashir and Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni could be added to the predators list soon. Yemen which had a particularly trying 2011 continues to be under close scrutiny since President Saleh’s departure. Burmese President Thein Sein on the other hand could be removed from the list if he proves to be the president of reform and democratization in 2012.
The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) were on the list for many years like Colombia’s paramilitary groups which are still on it. The FARC guerrillas were dropped from the list some time ago because they cut back targeted actions against journalists. The FARC are being blamed for kidnapping French freelance journalist Roméo Langlois’ who disappeared since 28 April when FARC guerrillas attacked a military anti-drug operation that Langlois was covering.
Reporters Without Borders said that they are following the case closely and with the appropriate caution as the claim that Langlois has been kidnapped by the FARC has not yet been clearly confirmed. But the organization intends to use World Press Freedom Day to pay tribute to his professional courage and to voice its support for his family and colleagues.