A presiding judge at the high court in Kigali on Monday decided to postpone indefinitely the trial involving three commentators of Iwacu TV, a Kinyarwanda-language news broadcaster on YouTube.The accused are facing charges related to inciting for insurrection and spreading false information with the intent of tarnishing Rwanda’s image abroad.
During the hearing on Monday, the defense team led by Jean Paul Ibambe challenged the High Court to rule the case arguing that the initial hearing – court proceeding was under a primary court instance.
The exact date of the newly rescheduled hearing will be announced on August 2.
The accused are Jean Baptiste Nshimiyimana and his two colleagues Shadrack Niyonsenga and Damascene Mutuyimana who were arrested and imprisoned in 2018.
They were charged with spreading “false information or harmful propaganda” with the intention to cause hostile international opinion against the Rwandan government, causing uprising or unrest among the population and formation of and joining a criminal organization.
The trio has denied all the accusations
In December last year, the Rwanda Media Commission (RMC), a self-regulatory body, came under fire when it announced plans to register YouTube channels operating as media.
The RMC executive secretary, Emmanuel Mugisha, told the media that the move was in response to complaints received, and that “we are not doing this for regulatory purposes, rather we are doing this for recognition purposes. When a YouTube blogger offends a certain group of people, we have to hold them accountable.”
The registration process required journalists to provide employer details, a press accreditation, criminal records, the media’s “editorial line,” and to pay a fee of 50,000 Rwandan Francs (US$50).
Following criticism from bloggers, the RMC suspended the planned registration of YouTube channels later that month.