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By Robert Mugabe
- How Mulama became casualty of Media-Police war
The attrition between media and police has claimed its first major victim in the ranks of government. Patrice Mulama, the former Executive secretary of Media High Council was sacked last week and replaced by practicing lawyer, Emmanuel Mugisha.
Great Lakes Voice (GLV) investigations reveal that Patrice Mulama, was sacked for penning and circulating a controversial cautioning letter against Rwanda Police boss Emmanuel Gasana over media harassment.
A source at the Prime Minister’s office accuses Patrice Mulama of insubordination and refusing to retract a caution against the Police prepared by MHC technical team. According to this source, Mulama’s zeal to sign the cautioning letter was also queried in the ruling party’s [RPF] meeting.
”Minister Protais Musoni advised Mulama to abandon a cautioning letter against the Police over media persecution. He [Minister] also sent Arthur Asiimwe to communicate to Mulama about government’s discomfort but Mulama is reported to have remained adamant,” the source intimated.
The letter reference no 734/MHC/011 dated 02/Dec 2011 a copy of which Great Lakes Voice has obtained, accuses the Police force for repeatedly carrying out attacks against journalists while doing their work.
This letter was provoked by the two journalists, who were illegally arrested and detained last November, Joseph Bideri, the former Managing Director of the New Times a pro-government daily news paper on 14th November, 2011 and Miss Leandrine Uyiringiye an intern camerawoman at state TV who was detained by police for filming parliament buildings.
In this letter, Mulama clearly states that these acts by Police “amount to harassment and intimidation of journalists and clearly violate the law governing the media in Rwanda”. The MHC also registers concern that the Police has fallen short on same obligations especially facilitating journalists and goes on to highlight various instances when journalists were harassed by police. These include;
- George Barya a former New Times photo-journalist was detained twice [August 2007 for two hours for taking photos of Assinapol Rwigara as the latter emerged from a CID car] and in 2008 for taking photos of a police officer who roughed up hawkers at Remera-Giporoso.
- Bayingana John of the New Times was arrested and detained for 2 hours in Gicumbi district in 2008 for taking photographs of 33 head of cattle at a public auction ceremony. He was released after his photos were forcefully deleted from his camera.
- On 4th July Didas Niyifasha of Radio 10 was assaulted by a police officer at Amahoro National Stadium and denied access to officials for interviews and his press card torn apart. The letter goes ahead mentioning several incidences which are compiled in one report.
MHC Board fears to sign, asks Mulama to do it on their behalf
A source at the MHC told the GLV that when the technical staff completed investigations into these violations, Mulama informed the board members but they feared to meet and sign the caution. Instead board members led by Arthur Asiimwe directed Mulama to sign it on their behalf.
Mulama took the bait and after several excuses signed the letter and copied it to various offices including the President, Prime minister, Internal security Minister, Prosecutor General, the National Human Rights commission etc.
Apparently, the letter was copied to so many offices that top government officials were so annoyed since they feared that what was supposed to be sorted out internally would eventually leak to the media.
It is said that the government’s own media watchdog officially accusing another government agency, in this case the Police, of harassing the media would provide invaluable weapons to international watchdogs that are critical of Rwanda media freedoms.
The highly placed source in the government intimated to GLV that the problem was not only the content but the independent way Mulama did it defying the common protocol of negotiating the decisions within RPF circles.
Mulama meets RPF party big wigs over letter
According to this source, Mulama met in two separate meetings with RPF party big wigs James Musoni [Minaloc] and Protais Musoni [Minicaaf] to offer his apologies for defying established party protocol but, only to be reported by spies around him of clutching on to his independence.
The MHC cautioned the police boss thus; “Mr. IGP, although media freedoms are not absolute and indeed they come with responsibility, the MHC has not found any credible reason to justify the illegal arrests, detentions and assault of journalists and therefore we call on the Police to desist from such practices that not only threaten media freedom but also hurt the spirit of the ongoing media reforms in our country. We also call on the Police to always thoroughly investigate cases involving threats to media freedom and to make public its findings”.
However, the Internal Security minister Musa Fazil Harerimana told GLV that it was not government or Police policy to harass the media but isolated cases which the MHC should not generalize.
“Look, there is no policy in our force to harass the media. We regard media as partners but not enemies. May be some individuals in the Police did that but it’s not the policy,” Minister Fazil said in the telephone interview.
According to Fazil, the Ministry will continue to put more effort in training the force how to work with the journalists.
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