Taking offline censorship online: Rwanda may start filtering

In April the Rwandan government suspended two independent newspapers, both critical of the ruling party. The six-month suspension will prevent the papers from covering the country's 2010 presidential elections.

The Committee to Protect Journalists called the move "a thinly disguised attempt at censorship" and notes that while the papers were accused of "insulting the head of state, inciting the police and army to insubordination, and creating fear among the public," no specific articles were cited in the accusation. Reporters Without Borders points out that, under Rwandan law, newspapers can only be suspended for two weeks at a time unless they are repeat offenders. Neither paper has previously been suspended.

Rather than backing down, the editor of suspended paper Umuvugizi decided to move online, publishing articles in English and Kinyarwanda at Umuvigizi.com. The government has not taken kindly to this decision, announcing that it will block the site if the suspension is not obeyed.

This would be the first case of Internet filtering in Rwanda and only the second recorded incident in eastern Africa (in 2006 the Uganda Communications Commission blocked the anti-governmet website RadioKatwe during the presidential election campaign).

Herdict: Help us track whether Umuvugizi is blocked!
Internet censorship reporting site Herdict allows Internet users to track which sites are blocked in their countries. If you are in Rwanda, please let us know whether you can access Umugivizi.com. You can submit a report via the Herdict reporter or using Twitter or e-mail.

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