Nairobi, March 6, 2013—Burundian authorities today released Hassan Ruvakuki, a reporter who has been imprisoned for 16 months on charges related to his interview with a rebel leader. The circumstances of the release were not immediately clear, and the Committee to Protect Journalists called on authorities to vacate Ruvakuki’s conviction and prison sentence.
Ruvakuki, a correspondent for the French government-backed Radio France Internationale and local Bonesha FM, was freed from Muramvya Prison, in central Burundi, to attend a medical checkup, according to news reports. But Ruvakuki told local journalists at a press conference after his release that he was not ill and did not know why he had been freed for a medical examination. It remained unclear whether the release was permanent.
The imprisonment of Ruvakuki in direct connection with his reporting had drawn considerable outcry both domestically and internationally. Burundian journalists have held consecutive demonstrations every Tuesday calling for Ruvakuki’s release. Several international organizations, including CPJ, have also sought Ruvakuki’s release.
“While we welcome news of Hassan Ruvakuki’s release, we call on authorities to clear his name by vacating his unjust conviction and prison sentence,” CPJ East Africa Consultant Tom Rhodes said.
Police arrested Ruvakuki in November 2011 after he visited Tanzania to interview the leader of a new rebel movement in Burundi. He was originally sentenced to life in prison for “participating in terrorist acts,” but the sentence was reduced on appeal in January to three years in prison for “participating with a criminal group,” local journalists told CPJ.
- For more data and analysis on Burundi, visit CPJ’s Burundi page.