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Rwandan YouTuber Jailed for Seven Years for Criticizing the Gov’t

A YouTuber in Rwanda has been jailed for seven years after he criticised the government on his channel.

Dieudonne Niyonsenga was sentenced to seven years in prison by a Kigali Court after he was found guilty of impersonation, forgery and humiliating state officials.

Niyonsenga is the  latest government critic to be jailed  following a series of crackdowns against  political YouTubers in the East African country.

Read: Police in Rwanda Arrest YouTuber, Opposition Members for ‘Undermining National Security’

“We are appealing this verdict against Niyonsenga with immediate effect. It is simply not right,” his lawyer Gatera Gashabana said on Friday.

Niyonsenga’s channel on YouTube, Ishema TV had about 15 million views. He was also fined five million Rwandan francs ($4,900)

“The court finds that the crimes Niyonsenga is accused of were committed intentionally,” the judge said while delivering the verdict.

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“Due to the adverse consequences that his crimes have had on Rwandan society, the court orders that Dieudonne Niyonsenga be immediately arrested and taken to serve his jail sentence.”

Niyonsenga was not in court during the sentencing, but he reported that the police had surrounded his home thereafter.

Going by the name ‘Cyuma’ on his YouTube channel, Niyonsenga was known for discussing human rights issues.

Read also: Eight Kenyans Among 12 Bank Hackers Jailed in Rwanda

In April 2020, he shared multiple videos criticising the police on how they had handled slum dwellers in the process of enforcing strict Covid-19 measures.

He was arrested and charged with violating lock down measures and impersonating a journalist before being sent to prison. 11 months later, he was acquitted and released  but the prosecution sought to appeal his release at a higher court where he was sentenced this week.

This comes just weeks after a court sentenced a 42 year old popular genocide survivor and YouTube commentator to 15 years in prison for inciting violence by criticising the President, Paul Kagame.

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Yvonne Idamage, a mother of four, was jailed for 15 years and ordered to pay a fine equivalent to $2,000 after she was convicted of six charges. She had accused the President and the government of dictatorship.

The Rwandan authority has in the past few weeks come down hard on YouTube channel owners who have published content that is critical of Kagame’s government.

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Written by Vanessa Murrey

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