JUNE 14, 2005
Updated: June 24, 2005
Etienne Ndikuriyo, Zoom Net and Bonesha FM
LEGAL ACTION, IMPRISONED
Radio and online journalist Ndikuriyo was arrested by the national intelligence agency in connection with a story that questioned the health of President Domitien Ndayizeye, according to The Associated Press and sources interviewed by the Committee to Protect Journalists. He was held at the intelligence agency’s headquarters in the capital, Bujumbura.
Ndikuriyo reported June 9 that the president was suffering from depression in the wake of his party’s defeat in recent municipal elections. The story appeared on the e-mail news service Zoom Net; Ndikuriyo is director of the news service. He is also a journalist with the independent radio station Bonesha FM.
The AP quoted Lt. Col. Jancier Rubwebwe, head of the national intelligence service, as saying that Ndikuriyo was being asked to reveal his sources, but had refused to do so. Local journalists said the offending story had quoted anonymous sources described as close to Ndayizeye. Article 8 of Burundi’s 2003 media law says that journalists cannot be forced to reveal their sources, according to the Association of Burundian Journalists.
Ndikuriye was held for three days before gaining access to a lawyer. By law, Ndikuriye was entitled to a lawyer’s representation during that time, according to Gabriel Sinarinzi, a lawyer who was eventually allowed to advise the journalist.
On June 17, Ndikuriye was brought before a public prosecutor, who ordered that the journalist be transferred to the central prison in Bujumbura. Sinarinzi told CPJ that the prosecutor produced an arrest warrant that stated Ndikuriye was being held for “violating the honor and the privacy of the head of state.” The charge carries a penalty of up to five years in prison. As of June 21, however, Ndikuriye had not been brought before a judge for a hearing, as required by law.
Burundi’s FDD party, comprising former rebels, won more than half of the seats in the June 3 municipal elections, outperforming Ndayizeye’s FRODEBU party. These were the first national elections since civil war broke out in 1993, and the first in a series of votes marking the completion of Burundi’s transition to democracy. Elections to the lower house of Parliament and the Senate are due to be held in July. The new members of parliament are then due to elect a new president in August.
On June 23, Ndikuriye was freed on bail of 500,000 Burundian francs (US$483) and ordered to report to a magistrate once a week.