Reporters Without Borders firmly condemned the arrest today of Mathias Manirakiza, the director of privately-owned radio Isanganiro, for “disseminating information liable to disturb public order and security.” After being questioned for three hours at the prosecutor’s office, he was transferred to Mpimba prison, where two other radio journalists are already being held.
“In punishing radio stations in this dangerous fashion, the authorities are just carrying out the threats that have been made for several months against media that refuse to toe the line,” the press freedom organisation said.
“The wave of arrests will continue if nothing is done to bring the government to reason,” Reporters Without Borders added. “President Pierre Nkurunziza cannot keep hiding behind the judiciary. Government officials are responsible for this situation as they are the ones who have been bringing complaints against the radios.”
Manirakiza was arrested for broadcasting a report in August that it was the army that prepared an attack on the presidential palace and the home of the head of the ruling party with the aim of proving there had been a coup attempt, the reality of which has been questioned by many privately-owned media.
Manirakiza’s lawyer, Raphael Gahungu, told Reporters Without Borders the complaint against his client was filed by a senior police official. He also said that Manirakiza was being held illegally as the offence with which he is charged under article 10 of the press law carries no penalty. He added that for someone to be placed in preventive detention, they have to be charged with an offence punishable by at least a year in prison, and even then they can only be held for up to two weeks.
22.11.2006 - Two radio journalists jailed in Bujumbura on state security charge
Reporters Without Borders condemns today’s arrest of Serge Nibizi, editor-in-chief of privately-owned Radio Publique Africaine (RPA), and Domitile Kiramvu, one of his journalists, on charges of “disseminating news threatening state security” and “violating the confidentiality of a judicial investigation.”
“President Pierre Nkurunziza claims to be committed to democratic values, so he should realise that throwing two journalists in prison for purely political reasons, before they have been tried, is contrary to all democratic standards,” the press freedom organisation said.
“Burundi’s donors must put pressure on the president’s office to have Nibizi and Kiramvu released and to have Burundi’s laws amended, as it is unacceptable for journalists to be treated like criminals over the least complaint,” Reporters Without Borders added.
At the end of the afternoon of 21 November, Nibizi, Kiramvu and a third RPA journalist, André-Palice Ndimurukundo, received a summons to report to the Bujumbura prosecutor at 2 p.m. that day. As it was already too late, they went the next morning (yesterday morning). Nibizi and Kiramvu were charged, and were taken to Mpimba prison, while Ndimurukundo was released.
The arrests appear to have been prompted by Kiramvu’s comments on the air last August criticising articles in the fortnightly Intumwa (The Messenger), the mouthpiece of the ruling CNDD-FDD party, that detailed evidence against alleged coup plotters although the case has not yet been sent for trial.
When President Nkurunziza gave a press conference during a visit to Paris on 9 November, Reporters Without Borders asked him about the climate of hostility between the ruling party and Burundi’s privately-owned media. In reply, he insisted on his commitment to press freedom and added, “if ever there was a country in which relations between government and press are peaceful, it is Burundi.”