27 February 2013

Burundi: IFJ Backs the Mobilization to Free a Jailed Journalist in Burundi

press release

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today has backed the mobilisation in support of the liberation of jailed RFI Swahili journalist, Hassan Ruyakuki who was arrested by security forces on November 28, 2011, and subsequently convicted by the Appeal court in Gitega to three years imprisonment following an interview with the leader of the opposition to President Pierre Nkurunziza.

Ruvakuki was convicted by the Appeal court of Gitega (centre) which found him guilty on 8 January of "participation in an organization formed to attack people and their properties" and to serve three years imprisonment.

The Burundi Union of Journalists (UBJ in French), an IFJ affiliate, organized a protest march on Tuesday February 26, in Bujumbura in support of Ruvakiki, despite the ban from the mayor and a heavily armed security forces around the Court which was the final destination.

"We encourage journalists in Burundi to increase the mobilization to free their colleague and call once more on the international community to join forces in this noble struggle for freedom and human rights" said Gabriel Baglo, IFJ Africa Director. "We called on authorities in Burundi to stop human rights violations by preventing journalists to demonstrate peacefully".

Journalists in Burundi have recently decided to protest peacefully every Tuesday until Ruvakuki is free. Security forces had violently repressed last week's protest. This week protesters started the demonstration before they were stopped by security forces. "We have hopefully started our protest and will keep it up in solidarity until they free Hassan," said Alexandre Niyungeko, UBJ President.

The IFJ joins its affiliate UBJ to vigorously denounce the brutal police attack against journalists, and calls on authorities to stop bad practices against peaceful protesters.

"The Ministry for Justice has announced that Hassan Ruvakuki will not be granted full parole as he has already served quite a quarter of his sentence. We understand now this is harassment against our colleague. We believe that the trial is political as the real motive was just an interview of an opponent," said Alexandre Niyungeko, UBJ President.

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