Journalist arrested for criticizing government

New York, June 1, 2006—The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the detention of a journalist in Burundi for criticizing the government. Aloys Kabura, a correspondent for the state news agency Agence Burundaise de Presse, was arrested late Wednesday for speaking “defamatory words” in public against state institutions, international media quoted a local prosecutor as saying.

Kabura was arrested in the northern province of Kayanza and transferred to a prison in Ngozi province, according to The Associated Press. He has not yet appeared in court. He told AP he was detained after criticizing police for beating journalists who refused to hand over tapes of a press conference on April 17 by a politician expelled from the ruling party. CPJ sources said police had also detained Kabura for a day in March, after he reported on an alleged corruption scandal for the national radio station.

“It is alarming to see Burundi’s government slipping into the autocratic and abusive habits that marked the days before its election,” said CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper. “We call on President Pierre Nkurunziza to ensure that Aloys Kabura is freed immediately and unconditionally, and that security services stop harassing journalists. The government should also decriminalize defamation as a matter of urgency to ensure that journalists and private citizens cannot be held arbitrarily on ridiculous charges.”

Former rebel leader Nkurunziza and his CNDD-FDD party came to power last year in the first democratic elections for more than a decade, marking the country’s emergence from a long and brutal civil war. Relations between authorities and the media appeared to improve after the elections, but have deteriorated in recent months, according to CPJ sources. Senior government and ruling party officials have publicly accused the press of becoming “another political opposition,” after media criticism of alleged corruption and mismanagement in the administration, AP reported.