A score of Reporters Without Borders activists demonstrated outside the Hotel Ritz in Paris at 8 a.m. today in protest against Rwandan President Paul Kagame’s visit to France. Kagame was due to have breakfast with a delegation of French businessmen in the hotel this morning.
Wearing red gags to symbolize violations of freedom of expression in Rwanda, the demonstrators brandished umbrellas with the words “Kagame predator” and placards saying “Kagame predator in Paris!” and “France - Rwanda, no freedom, no contract.” The police took their names and moved them away from the hotel.
“France seems to take pleasure in inviting predators of press freedom,” Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Jean-François Julliard said. “It rolled out the red carpet for former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2007. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was invited on the French national holiday, 14 July, in 2008. Paris was host to Chinese President Hu Jintao last November. Today Paul Kagame is being welcomed and we are supposed to say nothing?
“The climate for the media in Rwanda is so oppressive that the country is gradually losing its journalists. Those that do not flee abroad either censor themselves or are arrested. Two women journalists are currently serving sentences of 7 and 17 years in prison. A journalist was gunned down outside his home in Kigali in 2010. The remaining critical media are harassed or have gone into exile.”
Rwanda is ranked 169th out of 178 countries in the latest Reporters Without Borders press freedom index. This is Africa’s third worst ranking. Only Eritrea and Sudan are below it in the index. President Kagame has been on the Reporters Without Borders list of “Predators of Press Freedom” for years.
More information on media freedom in Rwanda.
Photo : AFP)