Four Burundian journalists were sentenced on Thursday, January 30, to two and a half years in prison and fined one million Burundian francs on charges of undermining state security. The four journalists were working for the Iwacu Press Group, one of the country’s last remaining independent media houses.
Agnès Ndirubusa, Christine Kamikazi, Egide Harerimana, Térence Mpozenzi and their driver Adolphe Masabarakiza were arbitrarily arrested in Bubanza Province on October 22, 2019.
The group were on their way to investigate reports of clashes between the security forces and an armed group in the province when they were arrested, despite informing the authorities of their plan to travel to the area.
On October 31 the Council Chamber of the Bubanza Tribunal charged all five with “complicity in undermining state security” and detained them at Bubanza Central Prison.
On November 20, the Ntahangwa Court of Appeal provisionally released Adolphe Masabarakiza but kept the four journalists in detention. Masabarakiza was acquitted of the charges on January 30.
The conviction and sentencing was condemned by Amnesty International.
“The conviction and sentencing of Agnès Ndirubusa, Christine Kamikazi, Egide Harerimana and Térence Mpozenzi on trumped-up charges marks a sad day for the right to freedom of expression and press freedom in Burundi,” said Seif Magango, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for East Africa.
“The authorities must quash the conviction and sentences, and the four journalists must be immediately and unconditionally released. They should never have been arrested or charged in the first place as they were simply doing their job,” Magango continued.
“The Burundian authorities must ensure that every journalist in the country can work freely, without fear of arrest, harassment or intimidation, particularly ahead of upcoming elections,” Magango said. (Source: Amnesty Intl.)