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Detained journalists saw police in bar fight

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World Association of Newspapers (Paris)

PRESS RELEASE
August 2, 2002
Posted to the web August 2, 2002


The World Association of Newspapers and World Editors
Forum have appealed to the President of Rwanda to
immediate free three journalists who were arrested
after witnessing a fight involving police officers in
a bar.

In a letter to President Paul Kagame, WAN and the WEF
said that the journalists worked for an independent
newspaper that was noted for its articles about police
misconduct and its criticism of the Rwandan
government. The organisations said they were concerned
that the charges may have been brought "in an attempt
to prevent the newspaper from revealing possible
police misconduct."

The letter said:

"We are writing on behalf of the World Association of
Newspapers and the World Editors Forum, which
represent 18,000 publications in 100 countries, to
express our serious concern at the jailing of three
journalists.

"According to reports, on 23 July Robert Sebufirira,
Elly MacDowell Kalisa and Emmanuel Munyaneza, all
journalists with the independent weekly Umuseso, were
sentenced to 30 days of 'preventative detention' by a
court in Kigali. They are currently being held in the
city's central prison.

"The charges stem from a 17 July incident that took
place at Bar Addis Ethiopian in the Kiyovu district of
Kigali. Mr Sebufirira, Ms Kalisa and Mr Munyaneza were
observers as a fight broke out between police and the
bar owner, who claimed to be a member of the military.
During the fight, some of the bystanders reportedly
started shouting at the journalists to take note of
the police and the soldier's conduct and make sure to
report it in the newspaper.

"The military police arrived soon after and arrested
Mr Sebufirira, Ms Kalisa and Mr Munyaneza, as well as
the bar owner. The journalists were taken into custody
and charged with assault, battery, and insulting a
police officer. They have been in detention since 17
July.

"As Rwanda's only independent, Kinyarwanda-language
publication, Umuseso has often criticised Your
Excellency's government and has written extensively
about police misconduct. We are concerned that the
charges against Mr Sebufirira, Ms Kalisa and Mr
Munyaneza may simply have been brought in an attempt
to prevent the newspaper from revealing possible
police misconduct.

"We respectfully remind you that it is the duty of the
state to provide an environment in which journalists
are able to carry out their professional duties
without fear of attack and intimidation. Such
incidents foster a climate of fear that inhibits
journalistic investigation and can promote
self-censorship.

"We respectfully call on you to ensure that Mr
Sebufirira, Ms Kalisa and Mr Munyaneza are immediately
released from jail and that all charges against them
are dropped. We urge you to do everything in your
power to protect journalists who are exercising their
right to inform."

The Paris-based WAN, the global organisation for the
newspaper industry, defends and promotes press freedom
world-wide. It represents 18,000 newspapers; its
membership includes 71 national newspaper
associations, individual newspaper executives in 100
countries, 13 news agencies and nine regional and
world-wide press groups.

The WEF is the division of WAN that represents senior
news executives.

Inquiries to: Larry Kilman, Director of
Communications, WAN, 25 rue d'Astorg, 75008 Paris
France. Tel: +33 1 47 42 85 00. Fax: +33 1 47 42 49
48. Mobile: +33 6 10 28 97 36. E-mail:
lkilman@wan.asso.fr

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