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Published on: 19-06-2014

The Eastern Africa Journalists Association (EAJA) has welcomed the release from jail of a Rwanda journalist Agnes Uwimana Nkusi who was convicted of charges of genocide denial, defamation of the President, Paul Kagame and divisionism.

Nkusi, who was the editor of the Kinyarwanda language newspaper Umurabyo, was released on June 18, at 12:00 noon. She was arrested in July 2010 and was first sentenced to 17 years in prison by the High Court in Rwanda but this was later reduced to four on April 5, 2012.

On April 5, 2012, the Supreme Court cleared her of the charges but she was still convicted for defamation and endangering national security and her sentence was reduced from 17 to 4 years.

Nkusi and another journalist, Saidati Mukakibibi, were arrested in July 2010. Mukakibibi was released last year on June 25th.

“We welcome the release of the journalist and hope the Rwanda government will work towards promoting greater press freedom to allow journalists work without intimidation and fear,” said EAJA Secretary General Alexandre Niyungeko.

The press freedom situation in Rwanda has over the last few years deteriorated with the government cracking down on critical journalists over claims that some of them were promoting division and the genocide ideology, a reference to the ethnic hate that led to the 1994 genocide which left over 800,000 thousand people dead.

“The crackdown on journalists which has seen some of them jailed while others have fled into exile has created fear and intimidation within the media in Rwanda, a situation which has undermined press freedom. We call on the government to promote greater media freedom and tolerance of free speech,” added Niyungeko.

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