Media Defence Logo

CLOSE

Rwandan acquitted of genocide ideology

Rwandan acquitted of genocide ideology

On 28 May, the Rwandan High Court acquitted radio presenter Epaphrodite Habarugira of charges of “minimising the genocide” and spreading “genocide ideology” and queried why the case was brought at all.

Habarugira, a presenter with Radio Huguka-Muhanga, was arrested in April 2012 after he accidentally mixed up the Kinyarwandan words for ‘victims’ and ‘survivors’ while reading a morning news report about ceremonies marking the 18th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide. According to the authorities, this made it sound as though he approved of the genocide.

Prosecutors initially demanded 20 years prison as well as a fine; at trial this was reduced to a demand of six years and a fine. A local court acquitted him of these charges in July 2012, but the prosecution appealed.

Habarugira’s defence lawyer, Jean de Dieu Nduwayo, argued that the statement was just a slip of the tongue and that there was no proof that he had any intention of spreading genocide ideology.

Dismissing the prosecution appeal, the High Court agreed and strongly criticized the actions of the prosecutor, holding that there was no proof whatsoever that Habarugira intended to belittle genocide survivors or promote “genocidal ideology”.

While MLDI welcomes Habarugira’s renewed acquittal we question why the proceedings were brought in the first place, why the prosecutor asked for a disproportionate jail sentence and fine and why the initial acquittal was appealed.

MLDI’s Senior Legal Counsel, Nani Jansen, commented that, “a prosecution under genocide ideology laws should be brought only when there is clear proof that someone intends to promote violence or hatred. Habarugira never intended to do any of this and he has already apologised profusely for his mistake. To be put through a two year trial was in itself an abuse of his rights.”

Over the past few years MLDI has helped in the defence of several Rwandan journalists. While MLDI has won victories in some of these cases, the unduly strict nature of the Rwanda’s media laws means that journalists cannot work freely and several of the journalists concerned have fled the country.

Recent News

Russian disinformation: a weapon in its war on Ukraine

Lawmakers, academics and citizens are becoming increasingly aware of the threat posed by disinformation and malinformation. ‘Disinformation’ refers to falsehoods spread deliberately to stoke distrust or promote an agenda. It is a widespread issue, overshadowing elections everywhere from Brazil to the USA, fuelling hate speech, such as in India, and impacting stock prices around the […]

Read

TOHAV & The Fight for Freedom of Expression in Turkey – by Esma Yasar

This article was written by Esma Yasar, a Kurdish lawyer working for Media Defence’s partner organisation TOHAV. Esma Yasar took part in Media Defence’s fellowship programme, which hosts human rights lawyers from our funded partner organisations all over the world. Freedom of Expression and Press Freedom in Turkey Turkey is one of the most restrictive […]

Read

[NOW CLOSED] We’re recruiting: Human Resources and Operations Manager

We are looking for a talented Human Resources and Operations Manager to coordinate our Human Resources, Information Technology and Office Management. About Media Defence Media Defence is a charity that helps media to defend their rights. We support independent media, journalists and citizen journalists who are under legal threat by making sure that lawyers are […]

Read