Burundi journalist Esdras Ndikumana and RFI's correspondent since 2002 was awarded the 2015 French diplomatic press prize on Monday.
Ndikumana, who lives in Kenya, won the prize for "his courage and will to inform," French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said.
"It's a message of support to all your Burundian and African colleagues who carry out exemplary work," Fabius added.
Ndikumana, 54, has dedicated his prize to his colleagues.
"Burundi used to be one of Africa's most press-friendly nations. But since the crisis this has changed, with 80 per cent of independent journalists fleeing the country and freedoms completely restricted," he said.
Ndikumana covered events in the Great Lakes country from 2001 for AFP and 2002 for RFI before he fled in August 2015.