CPJ condemns imprisonment of two radio journalists

New York, November 22, 2006–Two journalists for the prominent independent radio station Radio Publique Africaine (RPA) were arrested today in Burundi over a story about an alleged coup plot, according to several local sources. Editor Serge Nibizi and journalist Domitile Kiramvu were summoned for questioning, served with an arrest warrant, and imprisoned on charges which include threatening state security, according to their lawyer.

RPA director Alexis Sinduhije, who won an International Press Freedom Award from the Committee to Protect Journalists in 2004, said he believed the authorities were trying to shut RPA down because of its reporting on human rights abuses. Sinduhije has been in hiding since September, when he denounced a campaign of intimidation against RPA.

“We are outraged by these arrests, which appear to be part of a government attempt to silence critical reporting,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. “We call on the authorities to release Serge Nibizi and Domitille Kiramvu immediately.”

Nibizi and Kiramvu are accused of violating judicial secrecy by commenting on a story in the pro-government newspaper Intumwa that claimed evidence of a coup plot existed, according to lawyer François Nyamoya. No action has been taken against Intumwa. Several leading opposition figures — including the former, transition president – have been jailed since August in connection with the alleged coup plot. Nibizi has also been charged with threatening state security and public safety, Nyamoya said.

Two other independent radio stations, Radio Isanganiro and Radio Bonesha, have also been subject to government harassment since August when they and RPA cast doubt on the veracity of the purported coup plot.

For more information see CPJ’s October 2 news alert: