Hassan Ruvakuki, a reporter for Bonesha FM and Radio France Internationale was sentenced on 8 January 2013 to three years in prison by a judge in Gitega, Burundi at the end of an appeal against an earlier life sentence.
In response to this verdict, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has launched a petition calling for the immediate release of Ruvakuki, who is serving a prison sentence for doing his duty as a journalist. Sign the petition now!
RSF regards the 8 January sentencing as a sign that certain Burundian officials were determined to punish Ruvakuki at all costs. Several sources in Gitega reported that the appeal court had been under heavy pressure from the state security apparatus not to acquit him.
RSF, along with ARTICLE 19 and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) have been covering this case. Ruvakuki, along with 13 others was charged with "participating in acts of terrorism" in November 2011, and sentenced to life in prison in June 2012. The Burundian government claimed that he was involved in an attack which took place in September 2011 on a village in eastern Cankuzo province, which is close to the border with Tanzania.
As a reporter for local radio station Bonesha FM as well as the French state broadcaster Radio France Internationale, Ruvakuki was investigating reports of a new rebel group and interviewed Pierre Claver Kabirigi, a former police officer who claimed to be the leader of that group, the Front for the Restoration of Democracy-Abanyagihugu.
The terrorism charge against Ruvakuki was overturned during his 8 January 2013 appeal when the court decided that the radio reporter was instead guilty of "participation in an association formed with the aim of attacking persons and property."