, KIGALI, Apr 14 – Rwanda\’s media regulator has suspended publication of the country\’s two main independent weekly newspapers for six months, the body said Wednesday.
Isabelle Karehangabo, a member of the Media High Council, said the suspension of publication of the Umuseso and Umuvugizi newspapers was in line with the country\’s press laws.
"It\’s the first time a measure of this importance has been taken by the Media High Council", she told AFP.
Both Umuseso and Umuvugizi regularly fall foul of the authorities in Rwanda. On Tuesday Rwandan President Paul Kagame lashed out at media organisations that report rumours.
"It is inconceivable and unacceptable that we should accept the trade of selling rumours that seek to destroy Rwandans and their country. We cannot accept it… and it must stop, through choice or through force," he said.
The international press rights group Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said that by silencing the two papers the council, named by the government, was "robbing Rwanda voters of crucial alternative voices during the presidential election campaign".
"The ruling is a thinly disguised attempt at censorship. If the election is to be seen as free and fair, the council must reverse this ruling and ensure that all media are able to cover the campaign," CPJ Africa Program Coordinator, Tom Rhodes, said.
The telephones of officials in charge of the newspapers were switched off Wednesday. At least one of Umuseso\’s editors now lives in exile in South Africa.