Florianne Irangabiye

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Radio Igicaniro’s Florianne Irangabiye is serving a 10-year sentence following a January 2023 conviction on charges of undermining Burundi’s territorial integrity. After experiencing asthma-related breathing difficulties in northern Burundi’s Muyinga prison, she was transferred to Bubanza prison near the capital, Bujumbura, on October 30, 2023.

Irangabiye co-founded Radio Igicaniro, a Rwanda-based online outlet established by Burundian exiles, in 2019, the station’s editor, Arsene Bitabuzi, told CPJ and the exiled Burundian news outlet Radio Publique Africaine reported. 

Radio Igicaniro publishes critical commentary and analysis on politics, culture, and human rights in Burundi via YouTube, where it has about 1,400 subscribers, SoundCloud, WhatsApp, and Facebook.

Irangabiye, who moved from Burundi to Rwanda in 2009, hosts and participates in political debates on Radio Igicaniro, according to a person familiar with her case who spoke to CPJ on the condition of anonymity, citing fear of retaliation, Bitabuzi, and CPJ’s review. 

On August 30, 2022, Irangabiye was arrested by intelligence personnel in Bujumbura while visiting her family in Burundi, that person and Bitabuzi said.

Irangabiye was interrogated at the intelligence headquarters where she was denied legal counsel and was sexually assaulted by at least one intelligence officer, the person familiar with her case told CPJ.

Sylvestre Nyandwi, Burundi’s prosecutor general at the time, told CPJ via messaging app on November 4, 2022, that the sexual abuse allegation was “unfounded.”

In September 2022, Irangabiye was transferred to Muyinga prison in northern Burundi, according to the person familiar with her case and Radio Igicaniro.

On October 28, 2022, a court in Muyinga charged Irangabiye, according to the person familiar with her case and Radio Igicaniro, although the details of the charge sheet were not immediately clear.

On January 2, 2023, following a trial, Mukaza High Court in Bujumbura convicted Irangabiye for undermining the integrity of the national territory, according to a copy of the judgment reviewed by CPJ. The court also fined her 1 million Burundian francs (US$482). 

Part of the evidence used to convict Irangabiye was an August 2022 Radio Igicaniro program in which the journalist and guests criticized Burundi’s government and accused its leaders of being thieves and trampling on citizens’ rights, according to court documents reviewed by CPJ. 

On May 2, 2023, an appeal court upheld Irangabiye’s conviction and 10-year prison sentence, according to media reports

Irangabiye’s asthma worsened in detention, in part due to the humid weather in Muyinga and exposure to smoke from a kitchen near her cell, according to the person familiar with her case.

In May 2023, Irangabiye’s lawyers requested that she be moved to Bujumbura to mitigate these health concerns and see an asthma specialist. In July 2023, Irangabiye suffered severe breathing difficulties and chest pains, despite receiving medication.

On October 30, 2023, Irangabiye was transferred to Bubanza prison near Bujumbura, according to media reports. The person who spoke to CPJ on condition of anonymity said that authorities did not give a reason for the transfer but they expected the conditions in Bubanza would be better for her health.

In January 2023, the-then prosecutor general Sylvestre Nyandwi told CPJ that Irangabiye’s conviction was not politically motivated. 

As of late 2023, CPJ’s emails to the Ministry of Justice and text messages to Justice Minister Domine Banyankimbona did not receive any replies.