Dozens of people have been harassed, threatened or prosecuted for holding critical opinions about Rwanda’s government, Human Rights Watch (HRW) says.
A report by the US-based group has also demanded the urgent release of activists, journalist and opposition leaders arrested in Rwanda.
In 1994, hateful and dangerous speech broadcast in the media played a key role in inciting the Rwandan genocide which killed about 800,000 people in just 100 days.
Now, over two decades later, HRW has said that censoring speech and restricting journalists, bloggers and YouTube commentators has gone too far.
The report highlights a YouTuber with 15 million views, who was charged with humiliating public officials after he published a series of videos accusing soldiers of abusing people living in slums.
While the rights group recognises the government’s concern about speech leading to violence, it says that what it sees in the country is the complete banning of debates, opinions, and criticism of government policies.
The Rwandan government, led by President Paul Kagame, has not responded to the report.
As the country gears up to host the Commonwealth meeting in June, HRW hopes its report will bring awareness to the reported free speech crackdown in the country.
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