Nairobi, July 25, 2023 – In response to news reports that Burundian journalist Floriane Irangabiye is suffering respiratory distress and her health has deteriorated behind bars, the Committee to Protect Journalists issued the following statement:
“Imprisoned Burundian journalist Floriane Irangabiye’s worsening health is alarming, and authorities have demonstrated negligence in their failure to ensure that she receives adequate medical care,” said CPJ’s sub-Saharan Africa representative, Muthoki Mumo. “Authorities are responsible for her well-being and should ensure that she receives appropriate treatment. Even more importantly, Irangabiye does not belong behind bars and should be released unconditionally.”
On the night of Monday, July 24, Irangabiye suffered severe breathing difficulties and chest pains, symptoms that persisted as of late Tuesday and made it difficult for her to speak, according to news reports and a person familiar with her case who spoke to CPJ on the condition of anonymity, citing fear of retaliation.
Irangabiye, who has been detained since August 2022, has suffered from asthma since childhood, but her condition has worsened over the last three months, that person said, adding that, despite seeing a doctor at least four times during that period and being prescribed the use of inhalers, Irangabiye remains ill.
The person familiar with her case said Irangabiye is exposed to smoke from a nearby prison kitchen and that the humid weather had possibly contributed to her health issues. Two months ago, Irangabiye’s family formally requested that authorities transfer her from the northern Muyinga Prison to a prison in the capital city of Bujumbura due to those health concerns.
Irangabiye is serving a 10-year prison term following her January 2023 conviction of undermining the integrity of Burundi’s national integrity, charges that stem from her work with the online news outlet Radio Igicaniro.
[Editors’ note: The spelling of Muyinga Prison has been corrected in this article’s fifth paragraph.]