Alert: Keep track of all human rights news on our website and social media!
Burundi
22.10.20
Urgent Interventions

Joint statement: Sixty-five organizations call for immediate release of Iwacu journalists


22October 2020

On the firstanniversary of their arrest, 65 organizations call for the immediate andunconditional release of the Iwacu journalists Agnès Ndirubusa,Christine Kamikazi, Egide Harerimana and Térence Mpozenzi who were convicted oncharges against state security for simply doing their job. Their continueddetention on baseless charges is a stark reminder that, despite a recent changein leadership, the Burundian government has little tolerance for independentjournalism and free speech, the organizations said.


On 22 October 2019, thefour journalists were arrested along with their driver Adolphe Masabarakiza asthey went to report on clashes between the security forces and an armed group inBubanza province. Although they had informed the provincial authorities of theirplan to travel to the area, they were arrested on arrival and later accused ofthreatening internal state security. However, during the trial, the prosecutionpresented no evidence of the journalists having any contact with the armedgroup.

Although they werecharged with complicity in threatening the internal security of the state,Ndirubusa, Kamikazi, Harerimana and Mpozenzi were ultimately convicted ofattempting to commit the crime, a lesser criminal offense. Their lawyers saythat they were not informed of the change to the charge prior to the verdict orallowed to defend themselves against it in court, violating fair trialstandards. All four were sentenced to two and a half years in prison and finedone million Burundian francs (approximately 525 USD). Masabarakiza, who hadbeen provisionally released in November 2019, was acquitted. Ndirubusa,Kamikazi, Harerimana and Mpozenzi appealed their conviction, but in its 4 June decisionthe Ntahangwa Court of Appeal upheld the verdict.

The message sent by thecourts is an attempt to intimidate and threaten other journalists from doingtheir work and reporting on what is happening inside the country, theorganizations said. The conviction and continued detention of the fourjournalists also runs counter to Burundi’s constitutional guarantees on freedomof expression, as well as regional and international obligations in accordancewith Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and Article19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. It isparticularly inconsistent with the African Commission’s 2019 Declaration ofPrinciples on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information, whichspecifically provides that states shall take measures to prevent “arbitraryarrest and detention” of journalists.

Iwacu is one ofthe few remaining independent media houses operational in Burundi. Hundreds ofjournalists and human rights defenders have fled the country since the start ofthe political crisis in 2015 and those still working in the country often facethreats and harassment. Releasing Ndirubusa, Kamikazi, Harerimana and Mpozenziwould be an important first step towards reopening civic space and recognizingthe contribution of reliable media reporting in ensuring access to informationfor all Burundians.

Signatories:

1. ACAT-Burundi (Action des chrétiens pour l'abolition de la torture)

2. Amnesty International

3. ARTICLE 19 Eastern Africa

4. Association Burundaise pour la Protection des Droits Humains et desPersonnes Détenues (APRODH)

5. Association des journalistes indépendants du Bénin

6. Bloggers Association of Kenya

7. Burundi Human Rights Initiative

8. Cellule Norbert Zongo pour le journalisme d’investigation en Afrique del’Ouest

9. Center for Advancement of Rights and Democracy

10. CNCD-11.11.11

11. Coalition Burundaise des Défenseurs des Droits de l'Homme

12. Coalition Burundaise pour la Cour Pénale Internationale (CB-CPI)

13. Coalition de la Société Civile pour le Monitoring Electoral (COSOME)

14. Collaboration on International ICT Policy in East and Southern Africa(CIPESA)

15. Collectif des Avocats pour la défense des victimes de crimes de droitinternational commis au Burundi (CAVIB)

16. Committee to Protect Journalists

17. Community Empowerment for Progress Organization-CEPO, South Sudan

18. Congress of African Journalists

19. Consortium of Ethiopian Human Rights Organizations (CEHRO)

20. Defend Defenders (East and Horn of Africa Human Rights DefendersProject)

21. Eastern Africa Journalists Network (EAJN)

22. European Network for Central Africa (EurAc)

23. Fédération internationale des ACAT (FIACAT)

24. Federation of African Journalists (FAJ)

25. Federation of Somali Journalists (FESOJ)

26. FIDH, in the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of HumanRights Defenders

27. Forum pour la Conscience et le Développement (FOCODE)

28. Forum pour le Renforcement de la Société Civile (FORSC)

29. The Ghanaian PEN Centre

30. Human Rights Network for Journalists- Uganda

31. Human Rights Watch

32. International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)

33. Kenya Correspondents Association

34. Kenya Editors' Guild

35. Kenya Union of Journalists

36. Laws and Rights Awareness Initiative (LRAI)

37. Ligue Burundaise des droits de l’homme Iteka

38. Ligue des journalistes Tchadiens (LJT)

39. La Maison de la presse du Niger

40. Media Council of Tanzania

41. Media Institute of Southern Africa

42. Mouvement des Femmes et Filles pour la Paix et la Sécurité au Burundi(MFFPS)

43. Mouvement Inamahoro Femmes & Filles pour la Paix & la Securite

44. National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders - Uganda

45. Observatoire de la lutte contre la corruption et les malversationséconomiques (OLUCOME)

46. Ökumenisches Netz Zentralafrika (ÖNZ)

47. One Day Seyoum

48. OpenNet Africa

49. Organisation Patronale des Médias du Gabon (OPAM)

50. Paradigm Initiative

51. PEN International

52. PEN Nigeria

53. PEN South Africa

54. PEN Zimbabwe

55. Reporters sans Frontières (RSF)

56. Réseau des Citoyens Probes (RCP)

57. SOS-Torture/Burundi

58. Syndicat National des Journalistes Indépendants du Togo (SYNJIT)

59. Syndicat Professionnels Information Communication Sénégal (Synpics)

60. Tournons la Page - Burundi

61. Tournons la Page International

62. TRIAL International

63. Ugandan PEN

64. Union Burundaise des Journalistes

65. World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), in the framework of theObservatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders

Sign up now

Subscribe to our latest news & alerts