7 November 2010

Burundi: Two Newspaper Journalists Held for 48 Hours Without Being Told Why

Reporters Without Borders is disturbed by the way the authorities are treating two journalists employed by the newspaper Iwacu, Elyse Ngabire and Dieudonné Hakizimana, who were arrested for unknown reasons on 5 November, held incommunicado for 48 hours and released at noon today.

They have been told to appear before Bujumbura police chief Arthémon Nzitabakuze on 9 November but it is still not known what they are alleged to have done.

"We are obviously pleased by their release but our concern is unchanged," Iwacu editor Antoine Kaburahe told Reporters Without Borders. "Elyse and Dieudonné were arrested for no reason and then freed for no reason."

"We share Iwacu's concern about Ngabire and Hakizimana," Reporters Without Borders said. "It is completely abnormal for the authorities to hold two journalists in this way without giving any explanation. Not even the journalists were told why they were arrested. What are they supposed to have done? What grounds did the authorities have for denying them any visit?"

The treatment of the two journalists is the latest in a series of incidents affecting the privately-owned press in recent months. Jean-Claude Kavumbagu, the editor of the online newspaper Net Press, has been held on a treason charge since 17 July while the authorities have been harassing Radio Publique Africaine, a radio station that criticizes the government.

Arrested at about 1 p.m. on 5 November, after visiting a friend in Mpimba prison, Ngabire and Hakizimana were taken to the Special Investigation Bureau (BSR), where they were questioned and detained for the next two days.

The newspaper's lawyer, Jean de Dieu Muhuzenge, was refused permission to see them or talk to them while they were held. Yesterday, the newspaper accused the authorities of "flagrantly violating procedures, especially articles 92 and 93 of the code of criminal procedure under which 'the suspect enjoys all guarantees necessary for the right of defence including the help of a lawyer' and 'the lawyer is able to communicate freely with the suspect'."

Reporters Without Borders reached Nzitabakuze, the Bujumbura police chief, in an attempt to find out why the journalists were arrested, but he refused to answer our questions.

More information about the case of Jean-Claude Kavumbagu

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