Simple Fine Ordered After Top Journalist Dies

( This week, a Rwandan driver, who pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter for the hit-and-run death of an investigative journalist who was critical of the government, received a fine of one million Rwandan francs ($920 US), Fox News reported.

During the trial, which reportedly occurred on January 31, Moise Emmanuel Bagirishya pleaded guilty to the January 18 hit-and-run death of investigative journalist John Williams Ntwali, the editor of The Chronicles newspaper. Bagirishya’s speeding vehicle slammed the motorcycle on which Ntwali was riding as a passenger.

On Tuesday, journalists, who were kept away from the trial, were called into a Kigali courtroom to hear the verdict in the case. The judge announced that Bagirishya admitted he killed Ntwali “when he was over-speeding and fatigued” and apologized. The court accepted his plea for involuntary manslaughter and involuntary cause of bodily harm and ordered him to pay a fine of 500,000 Rwandan francs for each of the two charges.

Ntwali, who during his two-decade career had been arrested multiple times, was investigating and exposing human rights violations in Rwanda.

Dozens of activists and media organizations have called for investigations into his death, saying there is insufficient evidence for the official explanation.

In a joint statement, dozens of African civil society groups and press associations accused Rwandan authorities of failing to provide a police report of the January 18 incident, including where the crash took place or photos or video evidence, as well as any “detailed information on the others involved in the accident.”

Last month, Ntwali told Human Rights Watch that he feared for his life. He said he received threats regularly, including threatening phone calls and strangers coming to his home.

This week, Human Rights Watch raised suspicion about the initial unreported trial, calling it a “flimsy cover-up attempt.”

According to Human Rights Watch, the authorities’ claims about the road accident and their failure to notify his family of his death for nearly 48 hours reinforce suspicions over Ntwali’s death and the subsequent trial.