Burundi: Jailing of Iwacu journalists a sad day for press freedom

Following the sentencing today of four Burundian journalists 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, Seif Magango, Amnesty International's Deputy Director for East Africa said: 

“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. 

The authorities must quash the conviction and sentences, and the four journalists must be immediately and unconditionally released.
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.

“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.”

Background

Agnès Ndirubusa, Christine Kamikazi, Egide Harerimana, Térence Mpozenzi and their driver Adolphe Masabarakiza were arbitrarily arrested in Bubanza Province on 22 October 2019.

They were on their way to investigate reports of clashes between the security forces and an armed group in the province when arrested despite informing the authorities of their plan to travel to the area.

On 31 October the Council Chamber of the Bubanza Tribunal charged all five with “complicity in undermining state security” and 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 on 30 January.