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Burundi13 December 2006

Judges trying three radio journalists urged not to be accomplices to press freedom violations

Reporters Without Borders today call on Burundi’s judicial authorities to release three radio journalists whose trial on charges of “disseminating information likely to disturb public order and security” begins tomorrow in Bujumbura. They have been held illegally since late November.

“Press freedom has been in great danger in Burundi since these journalists fell into a trap set by a radical fringe within the government,” the organisation said. “The trial must put an end to this abuse of authority, in which they and the general public have everything to lose. We urge the judges not to be accomplices to this attempt to sabotage the press and to render justice by acquitting them.”

Serge Nibizi, editor-in-chief of privately-owned Radio Publique Africaine (RPA), and Domitile Kiramvu, one of his journalists, were arrested and charged on 22 November when they went to the state prosecutor’s office in Bujumbura on 22 November and were immediately incarcerated in Mpimba, the city’s main prison.

Mathias Manirakiza, director of privately-owned radio Isanganiro, was arrested, charged and imprisoned in a similar fashion a week later, on 29 November. Corneille Nibaruta, the director of privately-owned radio Bonesha FM, was summoned by the prosecutor on 1 December in what is probably also a prelude to his incarceration in Mpimba prison.

They are all being prosecuted 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.

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