In Burundi, 2nd editor arrested in less than a month

New York, August 11, 2010–Burundian police on Tuesday arrested Thierry Ndayishimiye, chief editor of the private weekly Arc-en-Ciel, on defamation charges related to a story about alleged government corruption. Ndayishimiye is the second Burundian editor to be jailed in less than a month.

The state prosecutor summoned Ndayishimiye to a court in the capital, Bujumbura, and then placed him in Mpimba Prison, defense lawyer Gabriel Sinarinzi told CPJ. The arrest stemmed from a July 30 article that alleged embezzlement and the use of substandard materials at the state energy authority REGIDESO.

The authority did not publicly respond but an executive filed a complaint alleging the article had defamed him. Ndayishimiye appeared before state prosecutors on the matter once before, on August 6, according to Eric Manirakiza, chief editor of Radio Publique Africaine.

On July 17, authorities arrested Jean-Claude Kavumbagu, editor of the private news website Net Press, on treason charges in connection with an opinion piece questioning whether Burundian security forces could prevent a terrorist attack similar to the July 11 twin bombings in Uganda’s capital, Kampala. If convicted, the editor could face life imprisonment.

“Burundian authorities have launched a systematic crackdown on journalists and civil society at large to censor public criticism,” said CPJ East Africa Consultant Tom Rhodes. “This destructive attitude toward the press must end. Ndayishimiye and Kavumbagu should be released immediately.”

The two journalists are being held in Mpimba, the country’s largest detention center. More than 1,800 prisoners are being held in the facility, which is meant to hold only 400 people, according to the Swiss-based human rights organization, International Bridges to Justice.

Kavumbagu had been imprisoned before, in 2008, after being charged with defamation in connection with an article accusing President Pierre Nkurunziza of misuse of public funds during the 2008 Olympics in China. He was acquitted in March 2009 but had spent seven months detention.