Dozens of rights and media groups urged Rwanda on Tuesday (Jan. 31) to conduct an independent and impartial probe into the death they see as "suspicious" of a top journalist who was critical of the government.
John Williams Ntwali, 44, editor of The Chronicles newspaper, was killed on January 18 when a speeding vehicle rammed a motorcycle on which he was riding pillion.
Ntwali, who had been arrested multiple times during his two-decade long career as a journalist, owned the Pax TV channel on YouTube, which had established itself as a rare outlet for critical reporting in Rwanda.
"Rwandan authorities should allow an independent, impartial and effective investigation, drawing on international expertise," the 90 civil society organisations and media associations said a joint statement.
The groups regretted that "two weeks after the alleged accident, Rwandan authorities [had] failed to provide a police report, the exact location of the alleged accident, any photo or video evidence, or detailed information on the others involved."
Asked about the investigation, Rwandan police spokesman John Bosco Kabera told AFP: "Ntwali's accident case file was transmitted to the prosecution. We can no longer comment on it."
The driver said to be involved in the incident that killed Ntwali is in custody.
Press freedom is often critcized in Rwanda where journalists critical of President Paul Kagame and his ruling party have been jailed, have disappeared or turned up dead throughout his nearly 30 years in power.
The eastern African nation ranks 136th out of 180 countries on the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) press freedom index.
Earlier this month, government spokeswoman Yolande Makolo noted that eight Rwandans had died in motorbike taxi accidents this month alone.
"Groundless insinuations don't help. Let the accident investigators do their work," she said on Twitter.
The statement, which was issued by Human Rights Watch (HRW) said Ntwali had been regularly threatened and attacked in pro-government media for his investigative reporting.
He was one of only a few journalists in Rwanda independently covering high profile, politicised trials of journalists, commentators and opposition members, and posting videos about their conditions in prison, it said.
"Rwanda's international partners should press the authorities to allow and cooperate fully with such an investigation," said HRW.
The media rights group said: "Beaten down by decades of oppression, the Rwandan media landscape is one of the poorest in Africa."