Senegal: CPJ expresses concern over missing journalist in Burundi

Dakar, Senegal (PANA) – The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has expressed deep concern about the welfare of a Burundian journalist, Jean Bigirimana who has been missing for two weeks.

In a statement made available to PANA in Dakar on Saturday, CPJ revealed that Bigirimana, a reporter with an independent weekly, 'Iwacu', formerly with the pro-government radio station Rema FM, has not been seen or heard from since July 22.

According to the press freedom watchdog, he left his home in the capital, Bujumbura, around lunch time on July 22, after receiving a phone call from a source in the country's national intelligence service and has not been seen or heard from since.

The statement cited Bigirimana's wife, telling journalists that her husband was arrested by the National Intelligence Service and that his family fears he is dead.

Godeberthe Hakizimana revealed that her husband left home for Bugaramana in the central province of Muramvya and did not return, despite saying that he would be back for dinner.

"Fourteen days after he went missing, Jean Bigirimana's family and colleagues are still in the dark about his whereabouts and condition," remarked Angela Quintal, CPJ's Africa Programme Coordinator.

"We call on the government of President Pierre Nkurunziza to disclose any information it has on the journalist's status, and if it has none, to immediately launch a thorough and credible investigation into his disappearance."

The statement pointed out that CPJ was unable to independently confirm that the journalist was arrested or that his life is in danger.

However, it added that Human Rights Watch had documented a pattern of abductions, arrests, torture, and killings of civil society activists, journalists, and others by government forces, armed opposition groups, and unknown assailants since April 2015, when protests broke out in response to President Nkurunziza's decision to seek a third term.

CPJ said it was aware of at least 100 journalists who have fled Burundi since the mass protests of April 2015 and the ensuing violence.

Bigirimana's disappearance came a few weeks after his return from Rwanda, where he had attended a journalism training course.

According to the statement, Iwacu reported on its website that it had received a call from a person claiming to be a "friend of the journalist" who reported that Bigirimana was detained by intelligence agents.

Iwacu said that Bigirimana was accused of having shuttled between Burundi and neighbouring Rwanda and of having written an article on the life of exiled Burundian journalists living in that country.

The statement revealed that Burundi and Rwanda are in the throes of a diplomatic spat. It also mentioned "a series of tweets" by presidential spokesman Willy Nyamitwe who tweeted that the government was investigating Bigirimana's disappearance.

-0- PANA MLJ/AR 6Aug2016

06 august 2016 16:33:00




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