ARTICLE 19 is saddened by the untimely death of John Williams Ntwali, one of the few Rwandan journalists who published stories critical of President Paul Kagame’s government. Ntwali was the editor of The Chronicles newspaper and owned the channel Pax TV on YouTube – IREME News, which is known for critical reporting in Rwanda. We call for an urgent, impartial, and thorough investigation into his death.
Civil society and press freedom organisations have expressed alarm about the death, and some have described it as suspicious, stating that Ntwali might have been murdered. The outspoken journalist, who regularly reported on human rights issues in Rwanda, had previously stated that he had received death threats, and that he feared for his safety
According to reports, Ntwali was killed on 18 January 2023 in a road accident, when a speeding vehicle hit the motorcycle on which he was a passenger. Ntwali was the only casualty in the accident in Kigali, according to media reports that quoted police spokesman John Bosco Kabera. According to local media reports, the driver of the vehicle that rammed into Ntwali’s motorbike was arrested, and the ‘accident file is being processed for onward transmission to prosecution’.
‘ARTICLE 19 calls on the Rwandan authorities to ensure effective investigations to determine the circumstances surrounding the accident that took Ntwali’s life’, said Mugambi Kiai, ARTICLE 19 Eastern Africa Regional Director.
In Rwanda, the environment for free debate and dissent continues to be hostile, and the media is tightly controlled. ARTICLE 19 has repeatedly raised concerns over serious challenges to freedom of expression in the country. These challenges have included criminal defamation and insult provisions, broad surveillance powers, online and offline attacks against journalists, an overly-restrictive regulatory media environment, and the poor implementation of access to information legislation. Journalists critical of President Paul Kagame and his ruling party have been jailed, have disappeared or died under mysterious circumstances.
Political opponents have also faced numerous challenges, including being arrested or disappearing. Journalists using YouTube as a platform for their work have also been targeted for prosecution for not registering with the Rwanda Media Commission (RMC) or for publishing information that contradicts the government’s version of certain events, such as the suspicious deaths of political opponents, journalists or disappearances of government critics.
For more information, please contact:
Mugambi Kiai – Regional Director, ARTICLE 19 Eastern Africa: [email protected]