By James Tasamba
KIGALI, Rwanda (AA) – A Kigali court on Wednesday ordered the release of three journalists in Rwanda after acquitting them of charges of spreading false information with the intention of inciting violence and tarnishing the country’s image.
The journalists, Jean Damascene Mutuyimana, Jean Baptiste Nshimiyimana and Schadrack Niyonsenga, were arrested in 2018 while working for the YouTube channel Iwacu TV.
Prosecution in the Nyarugenge district had alleged that the journalists “incited insurrection and spread false information with the intent of tarnishing Rwanda’s image abroad.”
It had asked the court to sentence the journalists to 22 years upon conviction.
But the court said “prosecution had failed to provide sufficient proof of the accusations against the three defendants.”
The journalists’ lawyer Jean Paul Ibambe welcomed the verdict, but expressed concern over “delayed delivery of justice.”
The Committee to Protect Journalists welcomed the acquittal and release of the trio on Twitter.
Lewis Mudge, Human Rights Watch's Central Africa director, said prosecuting the journalists will send a “chilling message to others who dare to exercise their right to free expression in Rwanda.”
Last November, Dieudonne Niyonsenga, a YouTuber, was sentenced to seven years in prison after being found guilty of forgery and impersonation.
The ruling came after another YouTuber, Yvonne Idamange, was jailed for 15 years for inciting violence online.