THE Rwandan Lower Court of First Instance in Kigali has ordered the Editor-in-Chief of a local tabloid, “Umuvugizi”, Jean-Bosco Gasasira to pay two plaintiffs $5 357 after finding him guilty of defamation, writes Dennis Itumbi for

Despite the ruling, the court declined to close down the paper and also refused to hand Gasasira a prison sentence,overruling a request by the prosecution to take that action on the basis of Article 83 of the Media Law.

However, Gasasira maintains that he is innocent and that the case was political and that some high profile people in government were behind the verdict. To push his argument he decided not to attend court for the ruling. He said he was not surprised by the judgment.

Gasasira, however says: “I definitely plan to appeal the verdict. Am already consulting with my lawyers and we shall make our decision public. But we are not happy with the judgment at all as it was influenced by politics from the highest level.”

The paper had reported that John Bosco Mutangana, the head of the country's Genocide Fugitive Unit, and Dr Diane Gashumba, head of Kibagabaga Hospital, were involved in sexual impropriety.

Presided over by Judge Silas Nsengiyumva, the court found Gasasira guilty of two out of the three charges against him.
“The court finds Gasasira guilty of defamation and invasion of privacy,” Nsengiyumva told a fully packed court that did not include Gasasira and his lawyers.

“The court finds that Mutangana and Gashumba being public figures were defamed and their privacy was invaded which had a negative impact on their family lives, work places and in their respective communities,” he added.

Nsengiyumva also ordered Gasasira to pay about $200 in legal fees instead of $1000 earlier demanded by the plaintiffs’ lawyers and the prosecution.