Rwandan journalists on Umurabyo newspaper sent to jail

Saidath Mukakibibi (left) and Agnes Nkusi (right) in pink prison uniforms in court on 5 January 2011 The women have been in custody since their arrest in July, a month before the presidential election

Two Rwandan journalists with the Umurabyo newspaper have been sentenced to long jail terms after being found guilty of stirring up ethnic divisions.

Editor Agnes Nkusi was sentenced to 17 years, while reporter Saidath Mukakibibi was imprisoned for seven.

Among several articles, the judge referred to one saying some Rwandans were unhappy with the country's rulers.

Prosecutors said this was "meant to stir [up] hatred and fury against the government".

President Paul Kagame came to power in 1994, ending the genocide in which some 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus were slaughtered.

He has recently been accused of intolerance and harassing anyone who criticises him.

His government defends its tough media laws, pointing to the role of "hate media" ahead of the genocide.

The newspaper was suspended for six months last year, just ahead of elections which saw Mr Kagame re-elected by a landslide.

Nkusi was found guilty of disrupting state freedom, propagating ethnic division, genocide revisionism and libel.

The judge cited several offending articles including one which criticised the gacaca traditional community courts set up to deal with 1994 genocide cases and others criticising Rwanda's reconciliation process.

Mukakibibi was convicted of disrupting state security.

Last month, four former top officials who have fallen out with Mr Kagame and gone into exile were sentenced in absentia to long jail terms for threatening state security and promoting ethnic divisions.

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