Jean-Claude Kavumbagu

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Burundi journalists march on World Press Freedom Day. (Jean Pierre Aimé HARERIMANA)

New York, August 3, 2011--The government of Burundi President Pierre Nkurunziza is attempting to silence critical press coverage of his administration with incessant judicial harassment of two of the country's leading independent broadcasters, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. 

In Johannesburg. (CPJ)

Frank Nyakairu has seen it all. A veteran war reporter, he has covered the horrors of northern Uganda and Somalia, among others places. And throughout this time of rich but often appalling experiences, he has also seen the auspicious--and sometimes terrifying--impact the Internet has had on East African reporters. 

Nyakairu spoke at a recent workshop held in Johannesburg, South Africa, co-organized by Global Voices, Google Africa, and CPJ. Attendees at the conference comprised some of the most active African bloggers and online reporters on the continent who came to learn how to sharpen their online reporting skills while avoiding the censors. 

Kavumbagu (AFP)
As recently as April, the state prosecutor in Burundi demanded journalist Jean-Claude Kavumbagu be put away for life. But just a month later, Africa's only jailed online journalist was a free man. A relentless international campaign by press freedom groups, human rights activists and Western governments had paid off.

New York, May 17, 2011--The Committee to Protect Journalists welcomes the release of online editor Jean-Claude Kavumbagu of Net Press on Monday but still questions the original charges placed against him. The High Court dropped charges of treason on May 13 but sentenced Kavumbagu to eight months in prison and a fine of 100,000 Burundian francs (US$80) for publishing "information that discredits the state and economy," according to defense lawyer Gabriel Sinarinzi. Authorities released Kavumbagu on Monday since he had already spent 10 months at Mpimba Prison in the capital, Bujumbura. 

New York, April 14, 2011--A Burundi state prosecutor asked a panel of judges on Wednesday to hand journalist Jean-Claude Kavumbagu, who has been imprisoned since July 2010 over a column critical of the country's security forces, the maximum life sentence on a charge of treason, according to local journalists.

'The media is now considered part of the opposition,' a civil society leader told CPJ. Seen here is 'opposition' station Radio Publique Africaine, in Bujumbura. (CPJ)After 2006, Burundi's government and media relations seemed promising. The airwaves had been open to private broadcasters for years; the president held frequent press conferences, and the government commended the unified press for its professional 2010 pre-election coverage. "The president had organized an open dialogue with the press before the elections," Information Minister Concilie Nibigira told CPJ. "It is the only country I know who would hold regular meetings with the media." 

Kavumbagu (AFP)

"They like me in here," editor Jean-Claude Kavumbagu said of his fellow prisoners. But sub-Saharan Africa's only jailed online journalist still pays protection money to stay safe in Bujumbura's Mpimba Prison.

The Net Press editor has been here since police arrested him on July 17. He was charged with treason over an article that questioned the competence of Burundi's security services.

Burundi Tribune
Bujumbura, December 9, 2010--The Committee to Protect Journalists today called for the release of journalist Jean-Claude Kavumbagu after visiting him in prison in Burundi's capital, Bujumbura. CPJ made the call at a press conference marking the end of a four-day mission to Burundi.

CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney and East Africa Consultant Tom Rhodes met with Kavumbagu, at left, editor of the French-language news site Net Press, at Mpimba Prison on Wednesday for more than an hour. 

Relying heavily on vague antistate charges, authorities jail 145 journalists worldwide. Eritrea, Burma, and Uzbekistan are also among the worst jailers of the press. A CPJ special report

From Africa to the Americas, more journalists are imprisoned today than at any time since 1996. (AFP)

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