from OMEGA SSUUNA in Bujumbura, Burundi
BUJUMBURA, (CAJ News) – THE continued detention of journalists on charges viewed as baseless highlights Burundi’s intolerance for independent media, civil society groups said.
This comes at the first anniversary of the arrest and detention of four journalists on charges against state security.
Iwacu journalists Agnès Ndirubusa, Christine Kamikazi, Egide Harerimana and Térence Mpozenzi were arrested along with their driver, Adolphe Masabarakiza, as they went to report on clashes between the security forces and an armed group in northwestern Bubanza province.
Although they had informed the provincial authorities of their plan to travel to the area, they were arrested on arrival and later accused of threatening internal state security through alleged affiliation to an armed group.
The prosecution presented no evidence in court.
All journalists were sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison and fined 1 million Burundian francs (approximately US$525 or R8 555).
Masabarakiza was acquitted.
Ndirubusa, Kamikazi, Harerimana and Mpozenzi appealed their conviction but the Court of Appeal upheld the verdict.
Some 65 civil society organisations jointly called for the immediate release of the Iwacu journalists.
Iwacu is one of the few remaining independent media houses operational in Burundi.
Hundreds of journalists and human rights defenders have fled the country since the start of the political crisis in 2015 when Pierre Nkurunziza forced a third term.
He died in June reportedly of coronavirus. Évariste Ndayishimiye is the new president.
– CAJ News