Rwanda blocks website of independent newspaper

Exactly one year after the murder of independent newspaper Umuvugizi’s deputy editor, the paper's website is again inaccessible in Rwanda. Its editor has just re-launched the paper as an online-only publication.

Last weekend, Umuvugizi went online with a re-launched version of its website, publishing in Kinyarwanda and English. According to reports on Twitter, the site is currently inaccessible in Rwanda.

Umuvugizi has been a constant victim of Internet filtering since the offline publication was suspended for six months in April 2010 by Rwanda’s Media High Council for undisclosed reasons. The suspension effectively prevented the independent weekly from covering that year’s presidential elections in August. Chief editor John Bosco Gasasira fled for exile, first in Uganda, now in Sweden, aiming to ensure continued publication.

Umuvugizi online was launched merely a month after the ruling, prompting immediate threats of censorship by members of the Media High Council who claimed the publication was “defying its suspension”. The website was blocked for the first time by June 3, 2010, perhaps in response to a story about the lavish travel expenses of President Paul Kagame, as the Committee to Protect Journalists speculates.

Umuvugizi’s deputy editor Jean-Leonard Rugambage Cheriff was shot in the capital Kigali on June 22, 2010, in what the newspaper claims to have been an attack by government security forces. Rugambage's alleged killers were later tried and received life sentences, but Umuvugizi continues to claim that these were mere scapegoats.

Converted into an online-only publication, Umuvugizi has faced on-and-off filtering throughout the last year. In early June 2011, the website was again blocked for three days prior to a court ruling that sentenced chief editor Gasasira in absentia to 2.5 years in prison for insulting the president and inciting civil disobedience.

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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