KIGALI (Reuters) - Rwandan police have arrested an independent journalist for comparing President Paul Kagame with the Nazi German leader Adolf Hitler, police said, but an official denied her detention was linked to upcoming elections.
Saidati Mukakibibi, an unregistered journalist who works for independent newspaper Umurabyo, was arrested for defamation, inciting public disorder and ethnic “divisionism”, police spokesman Eric Kayiranga said on Monday.
“She wrote articles through the paper comparing President Kagame to Hitler. Behind his picture they put insignia of the Nazis,” Kayiranga said. “The articles were causing public disorder in terms of causing divisionism and spreading rumours that can cause insecurity.”
Kagame’s administration says free speech must be tempered by concerns about stoking ethnic enmity which led to the 1994 genocide in which 800,000 ethnic Hutu and moderate Tutsi were killed.
Police also detained Umurabyo’s editor last week. But authorities deny charges by rights groups that the government is clamping down on critical opposition and journalists before presidential elections in August.
Rwanda’s Media High Council (MHC) said Mukakibibi’s arrest was not linked to the upcoming ballot, which Kagame is expected to win by a large majority.
“What worries us most is that she has written things that are criminal in nature. Should law enforcement organs keep quiet because of elections?” MHC executive director Patrice Murama told Reuters.
Police arrested the paper’s editor and owner Agnes Uwimana on charges of genocide denial and stirring ethnic hatred. Uwimana has previously served a one year jail term for inciting ethnic divisions and defamation.
Two other critical newspapers were suspended in April on similar charges but international media rights groups described the move as a veiled attempt at censorship.
In June, a Rwandan journalist was shot dead outside his home after writing a report linking Rwandan security services to the alleged assassination attempt on a dissident general in self-imposed exile in South Africa.
The government strongly denies being behind either shooting.