The African Freedom of Expression Exchange (AFEX) denounces the jailing of four journalists by authorities in Burundi. Four journalists, Christine Kamikazi, Agnès Ndirubusa, Egide Harerimana and Térence Mpozenzi all working with Iwacu media outlet were on January 30, 2020 each sentenced to two and a half years in prison.
The authorities accused the four journalists of attempting to destabilse the country’s national security after they went to cover clashes between rebels and government security agents in the country.
The four journalists were arrested on October 22, 2019 together with Adolphe Masabarikiza, their driver while they were covering clashes between state security agents in Burundi and gunmen from the Democratic Republic of Congo who had invaded the country. Masabarikiza was relaeased in November 2019 while the four journalists were held till their conviction last week.
AFEX joins the global community to condemn the unfair sentencing of the journalists to two and a half years in prison. By this ruling, the Burundian government is clearly reneging on its duty to uphold and respect freedom of expression as guaranteed by regional and international frameworks. The sentencing of the journalists following the execution of their journalistic duties also contravenes the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR) ruling in the Konate v. Burkina Faso case which stipulates that press offenses are treated as civil cases and not criminal. We therefore call on the authorities in Burundi to review the sentences, and unconditionally release the journalists so they can carry out their duties.
The government of Burundi must take steps to promote and defend freedom of expression and press freedom in order to reverse the growing trend of intolerance which is denting the image of the country.