Burundi: Amnesty condemns jailing of journalists Agnès Ndirubusa, Christine Kamikazi, Egide Harerimana and Térence Mpozenzi

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Simon Ateba is Chief White House Correspondent for Today News Africa. Simon covers President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, the U.S. government, the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other financial and international institutions in Washington D.C. and New York City.

Amnesty International on Thursday condemned the sentencing of four Burundian journalists – Agnès Ndirubusa, Christine Kamikazi, Egide Harerimana and Térence Mpozenzi – from the Iwacu Press Group, one of the country’s last remaining independent media houses, to two-and- a-half years in prison and a fine of one million Burundian francs, saying it was a sad day for press freedom.

Agnès Ndirubusa, Christine Kamikazi, Egide Harerimana, Térence Mpozenzi and their driver Adolphe Masabarakiza were arrested in Bubanza Province on October 22, 2019 while on their way to investigate reports of clashes between security forces and an armed group in the province earlier that morning.

Despite informing the provincial authorities of their plan to travel to the area, they were arrested upon arrival, and on 31 October the Council Chamber of the Bubanza Tribunal charged all five with “complicity in undermining state security”.

They were detained them at Bubanza Central Prison. On 20 November, the Ntahangwa Court of Appeal provisionally released Adolphe Masabarakiza but kept the four journalists in detention. Masabarakiza was acquitted of the charges.

Burundi has been gripped by crisis since President Pierre Nkurunziza stood for a third time in office in 2015 ( Reuters )
Burundi has been gripped by crisis since President Pierre Nkurunziza stood for a third time in office in 2015 ( Reuters )

Seif Magango, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for East Africa said the conviction and sentencing of the four journalists on trumped-up charges “marks a sad day for the right to freedom of expression and press freedom in Burundi”.

“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.

“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.”

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