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Journalists Dominique Makeli and Tatiana Mukakibibi imprisoned for over 10 years without trial

(JED/IFEX) - The following is an abridged 13 February 2007 JED press release:

Kinshasa, 13 February 2007

JED concerned about deteriorating press freedom situation

Journaliste en danger (JED) is deeply concerned about the press freedom situation in Rwanda that is worsening each day. The organisation calls upon the Rwandan authorities to respect journalists' right to report freely.

Since the beginning of 2007, as was the case in 2006, arbitrary arrests and assaults of journalists have resumed in Rwanda, where criticism is not tolerated, creating a climate of fear for those who manage media outlets, particularly independent ones.

(. . .)

Two journalists, Dominique Makeli and Tatiana Mukakibibi, have been languishing in prison in Kigali for over 10 years without ever being sentenced.

Makeli, a journalist with Radio Rwanda, broadcast from Kigali, was arrested on 18 September 1994 and is presently detained in Kigali central prison. The journalist was officially accused of having "incited genocide in his reporting" for declaring during the course of a report on the appearance of the Virgin Mary, that "The parent is in the sky." The state prosecutor in the case had explained that in the context at that time, this phrase meant "Habyarimana is in the sky" (Habyarimana is the name of the Rwandan president, of Hutu origin, whose assassination triggered the genocide).

Mukakibibi, also a journalist with Radio Rwanda, was arrested on 2 October 1996 and is still detained in Nteyo prison. She was accused of broadcasting, on 6 April 1994 - the day the genocide began - official communiqués and lists of named people sent by the country's police stations. On 4 July 1994, she broadcast another statement announcing the evacuation of Kigali.

The two journalists appeared before a gacaca - a popular tribunal put in place to judge individuals implicated in the 1994 genocide - and were ranked in the top category comprised of "planners, organisers, inciters, supervisors and framers of genocide", meant to be punished with death. Their trial has never been initiated.

Considering these circumstances, JED urges the Rwandan authorities to:

(. . .)

- either release Dominique Makeli and Tatiana Mukakibibi or organise as quickly as possible, a just and fair trial on their presumed implication in the 1994 genocide;

- guarantee all media outlets, whether state-owned or privately-run, freedom to report and broadcast news without being harassed, in accordance with articles 19 and 9 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights, judicial instruments that have been formally ratified by Rwanda.

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