Concerning the continued persecution of journalists in Burundi

Thursday, February 26, 2015
Her Excellency Spéciose Nzeyimana Ambassador of the Republic of Burundi to Canada Embassy of the Republic of Burundi 350 Albert Street, suite 400 Ottawa, ON, K1R 1A4 February 25, 2015 Dear Ambassador, I am writing on behalf of Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE), a non-profit, non-governmental organization that works to promote and protect press freedom and freedom of expression around the world. CJFE applauds the release on bail of prominent radio journalist Bob Rugurika, director of Burundi’s Radio Publique Africaine (RPA). Rugurika was arrested on January 20, 2015, after his radio station broadcast a series of investigative reports on the September 2014 murder of three Italian nuns in Burundi. The broadcasts included an interview with a man who claimed to have participated in the murders and alleged that senior intelligence and security officials were involved in planning them. Rugurika was charged with conspiracy to murder, violating confidentiality in criminal investigations, harbouring a criminal and failing to uphold “public solidarity.” The Court of Appeal ordered his release on bail on February 18, 2015, however judicial administration delayed his release by one day. Numerous international and regional treaties ratified by Burundi make clear that pre-trial detention is only justifiable in the most exceptional cases; the Burundian authorities have yet to produce any evidence supporting the need to detain Rugurika following his arrest in January. Rugurika’s arrest takes place against a backdrop of an increasing crackdown on perceived government critics in advance of elections scheduled to begin in May 2015. Independent journalists, activists and members of opposition parties have been repeatedly intimidated, threatened and prevented from carrying out their activities. Some have been detained and prosecuted. In June 2013, Burundi adopted a new press law that restricts media freedoms and undermines the right to freedom of expression that is guaranteed in the country’s Constitution. While CJFE is relieved by Rugurika’s recent release, we remain concerned by the repeated persecution of journalists in Burundi by the country’s authorities. CJFE urges the government to guarantee the right to free expression and allow journalists to investigate and report without fear of unwarranted arrest and persecution. We thank you for your attention and I look forward to your reply. Yours sincerely, Arnold Amber, CJFE President Cc: Mr. David Angell, Canadian High Commissioner to Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda and Ambassador designate to Burundi, Somalia and South Sudan The Honourable Rob Nicholson, Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs

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