Burundi journalists still in detention ‘for covering attack’

Audace Machado |BBC Africa|

Four Burundian journalists and their driver are spending a third day in police detention after being arrested while interviewing residents in the wake of an attack by a rebel group, their employer has said.

Christine Kamikazi and Agnès Ndirubusa
Christine Kamikazi and Agnès Ndirubusa

Government forces killed 14 rebels and seized 11 guns in Tuesday’s attack in the north-western Bubanza province.

The journalists – Christine Kamikazi, Agnès Ndirubusa, Térence Mpozenzi, Egide Harerimana – and their driver, Adolphe Masabarakiza, work for the privately owned French-language Iwacu newspaper.

Iwacu has said the journalists are still in police custody.

Iwacu founder Antoine Kaburahe said the newspaper has not been told on what grounds the journalists are being held. The authorities have not commented on the arrests either.

Mr Kaburahe added that the journalists were interrogated on Wednesday without their lawyer being present.

Iwacu’s news editor Leandre Sikuyavuga, accompanied by a lawyer, visited the five and reported that they were all tired.

Burundi’s journalists’ union has condemned the arrests as well as the fact that their equipment was seized.

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has called for the five’s immediate release, saying in a statement: “Journalists have a duty to report on unrest and security personnel ought to protect and facilitate this work, not impede it.”

Mr Kaburahe said the journalists went to perform their role of covering the fighting between rebels and government forces.

“Journalists, real ones, go to the field to find news, news does not come to find them in the office,” he wrote on the newspaper’s website.

In July 2016, Jean Bigirimana, a journalist writing for the same newspaper, was arrested by unknown people and has never seen since. Iwacu believes he was targeted because of his reporting.