For nearly a decade, Rwandan journalists and media houses have consistently collided with both public and private individuals mostly arising from publications or reports that would be considered defamatory.
However, there is a new twist. During a Plenary sitting this morning to examine and vote a draft bill determining offences and penalties in general; defamation has been decriminalized.
Hon. Kayiranga Alfred Chairman of Political Affairs and Gender Committee tabled before the Plenary sitting the report on the Draft law determining offences and penalties in general.
Meanwhile, Justice Minister Johnston Busingye clarified that, “Defamation is still a criminal offence under the 2012 Penal Code. It has been dropped from the Penal Code Bill, now under consideration by Parliament. It will cease being a criminal offence once the Bill is passed by Parliament and enacted into law, as is.”
Under the proposed penal code bill that had been approved for debate in parliament in October this year, media practitioners would face up to 7-year prison sentence or a fine of $8,353 (Rwf7million).
The bill had extensively broken down details of penalties of criminal defamation plus introducing extra offences.
For example publishing an article containing insults would book punishment of a fine between $5800 to $8200 but also the journalist would be sent to Jail for 7 years.
Muganwa Gonzaga, Executive Secretary of Rwanda Journalists Associations told KTPress that this has been a long awaited win for the media in the country.
“For almost ten years we have been campaigning for decriminalisation of defamation. This will give chance for right of response and settling any defamation related cases through a civil court,” Muganwa said.
He added that the country’s self regulation agency- Rwanda Media Commission (RMC) has handled about 240 cases and 60 of these were of defamation nature and were successfully handled.