Panafrican News Agency

65 organisations call for immediate release of Iwacu journalists in Burundi

Paris, France (PANA) - Sixty-five organisations Thursday called for the immediate and unconditional release of four journalists of Iwacu, a private media house in Burundi, on the first anniversary of their arrest on 22 October 2019.

“The declaration of guiltiness and the maintaining in detention of the four journalists are against Burundi’s constitutional guarantees in terms of freedom of expression, as well as the regional and international obligations of the country by virtue of Article 9 of the African Charter of human rights and Peoples and Article 19 of the international pact related to civil and political liberties,” said the organisations in a joint statement here Thursday.

They stressed that the continued detention of the four journalists over accusations without legal basis showed the lack of tolerance from the government concerning independent journalism and freedom of expression.

The statement also said that the declaration of guilt and continued detention of the journalists were also in contradiction with the 2019 Declaration of Principles on the Freedom of Speech and the Access to information in Africa of the African Commission.

It specifically states that governments must take measures to prevent “the arbitrary arrest and detention” of journalists.

“The release of Agnès Ndirubusa, Christine Kamikazi, Egide Harerimana and Térence Mpozenzi would be decisive step towards the reopening of the civic space and the recognition of the contribution of reliable media cover for the access to information for all Burundian population,” said the statement.

It deplored that hundreds of journalists and rights activists had fled Burundi since the beginning of the political crisis in 2015, while those still working in the country were often victim of threats and harassment. 

Ndirubusa, Kamikazi, Harerimana and Mpozenzi and their driver, Adolphe Masabarakiza, were arrested on 22 October 2019 as they were driving to the province of Bubanza to investigate clashes between the security forces and an armed group.

They were found guilty of charges linked to the government public safety.

The four journalists were sentenced to two-and-a-half years’ imprisonment and a fine of one million Burundian francs, or about 525 dollars.

However, their driver, who had been released provisionally in November 2019, was discharged.

The journalists lodged an appeal against their sentence, but the Ntahangwa Court of Appeal confirmed the decision of the high court on 4 June. 


-0-    PANA    BM/IS/MSA/RA   22Oct2020