Etienne Ndikuriyo, journalist on privately-owned radio Bonesha FM and head of the Zoom-Net agency was officially released on bail on 22 June after eight days in prison. He will nevertheless have to report to the examining judge every week. The procedure to release him could not be completed on the evening of the 22nd so he was only freed from jail the following morning.
21.06.05 - Call to president over journalist imprisoned for one week
Reporters Without Borders has written to President Domitien Ndayizeye after radio journalist Etienne Ndikuryo of radio Bonesha FM and Zoom-Net online agency, has been charged with "striking a blow at private life and honour" and "insulting the head of state".
Ndikuryo had been summoned on 14 June by head of the secret services Lt.-Col. Janvier Rubwebwe after he wrote an article posted on Zoom-Net saying that the Burundi president was "depressed" after his party was defeated at local elections on 3rd June. He was charged on 17 June after being held in custody for three days at the secret service headquarters.
"The day of his arrest, our organisation expressed its astonishment and concern at a journalist who wrote an article that upset the head of state being treated like a criminal," the organisation said in its letter.
This time, Reporters Without Borders explained that it wished to "remind [the president] of certain principles under which the immediate release of Etienne Ndikuryo appeared to it to be the sole alternative".
Reporters Without Borders pointed out that the arrest and charging of the journalist contravened the law No.1/025 of 27 November 2003 regulating the press and guaranteeing freedom of investigation and protection of sources. The organisation stressed that under this law, disputes between the press and society should be overseen by the National Communications Council (CNC), which strongly condemns "dictatorial methods".
"Moreover this arrest was ordered without any advance notice being given to the minister responsible for the press, Onésime Nduwimana," Reporters Without Borders revealed.
"Since it appears that the journalist was arrested on the order of the presidency, the law and the functioning of Burundi’s institutions have thus been flouted, on the order of the person supposed to guarantee them," the organisation added.
"Reporters Without Borders can only protest against this reign of unfairness when it reappears in a country held up an example of peaceful transition."
The organisation concluded, "Beyond this one case of Etienne Ndikuryo, our organisation would like to remind you that there is regular condemnation of terms of imprisonment for press offences, not only from national and international press freedom organisations but also from the International Francophone Organisation (OIF) and the United Nations.