Rwanda Investigation Bureau (RIB) has explained why it arrested six people on Wednesday including YouTuber Theoneste Nsengimana of Umubavu Online TV, saying that the detained individuals were hell bent on inciting masses.
Others arrested include Sibomana Sylvain, 51, Rucubangana Alex, 47, Hagengimana Hamad, 40, Ndayishimiye Jean Claude, 36, and Uwatuje Joyeuse, 33.
The national investigative body says the individuals were using the online video streaming platform to disseminating messages which were aimed at causing an uprising, in contravention of law on the prevention of cybercrimes.
“In collaboration with Security Organs, on October 13, RIB arrested 6 people including Nsengimana Theoneste, the owner of an online channel Umubavu TV following investigations of publication of rumours intended to cause uprising or unrest among the population,” RIB said in a statement.
RIB said that the six are all detained at Remera and Kicukiro RIB stations as investigations continue and their case file will be submitted to the National Public Prosecution Authority for further management.
According to the RIB Spokesperson, Dr. Thierry B. Murangira, the crimes were committed on various occasions through different social media platforms mainly YouTube.
Dr. Murangira said that the arrest of the individuals should not be confused with cracking down on freedom of expression as there were enough grounds to prove that the suspects crossed the line of the said freedom.
“Freedom of expression or opinion should be exercised within the parameters of provisions within the law,”
“Article 38 of the Constitution states that freedom of expression and freedom of access to information shall not prejudice public order, good morals, the right of every citizen to honour and dignity and protection of personal and family privacy and protection of the youth and children,” Dr. Murangira said.
The RIB Spokesperson added that some the suspects, including one Sylvain Sibomana are recidivist, having served sentences for the same crimes before.
In 2013, Sibomana was sentenced to 8 years for similar charges of causing uprising or unrest among the population. He was released in 2021 after serving his sentence.
Nsengimana had also previously had run- ins with the law, including in April 2020 when he was arrested for convening people during a pandemic and paying them to claim that they had received relief support from people abroad.
He has also been cited among YouTubers that have been involved in airing inciteful content laced with political undertones.
More action to come
Dr. Murangira encouraged users of these platforms to ensure they use them in a legal manner to inform and interact with their followers, adding that committing cybercrimes over these platforms will not be tolerated.
“We shall not tolerate any individual who uses these platforms in disseminating content with rumours or which can cause uprising or unrest among the population,” he said.
RIB warned that the arrest of these individuals should be a warning to those still engaging in using social media platforms to channel through divisive and inciteful messages.
“The investigations are ongoing, and we shall arrest any individual who shall be found on the wrong side the law while using social media,” the RIB Spokesperson warned.
RIB warns the public against the use of social media platforms as channels for individuals, mostly living abroad with the intention to spread false information or harmful propaganda to cause hostilities among Rwandans.
The warning comes after several YouTubers were found to be receiving funding from individuals and groups abroad, including some engaged in subversive activities, seeking to channel through their messages.
What the law says
According to Law Nº 60/2018 of 22/8/2018 on prevention and prevention and punishment of cybercrimes, especially article 39 on publication of rumours, any person who, knowingly and through a computer or a computer system, publishes rumours that may incite fear, insurrection or violence amongst the population or that may make a person lose their credibility, commits an offence.
Upon conviction, he/she is liable to imprisonment for a term of not less than three (3) years and not more than five (5) years and a fine of not less than one million Rwandan francs (FRW 1,000,000) and not more than three million Rwandan francs (FRW 3,000,000).
According to article 204 of the Law determining offences and penalties in general Nº68/2018 of 30/08/2018, any person who publicly, either by a speech, writings of any kind, images or any symbols, whether displayed, distributed, purchased or sold or published in any manner, incites the population to reject the established Government, or who causes uprising in the population with intention to incite citizens against one another or disrupts the population with intention to cause unrest in the Republic of Rwanda commits an offence.
Upon conviction, he/she is be liable to imprisonment for a term of not less than ten (10) years and not more than fifteen (15) years
The same law in article 194 on spreading false information or harmful propaganda with intent to cause a hostile international opinion against Rwandan Government, any person who spreads false information or harmful propaganda with intent to cause public disaffection against the Government of Rwanda, or where such information or propaganda is likely or calculated to cause public disaffection or a hostile international environment against the Government of Rwanda commits an offence.