Agents from the Burundian National Intelligence Service arrested Ruvakuki, a reporter for the private broadcaster Radio Bonesha and correspondent for the French government-funded Radio France Internationale, as he covered a press conference in the capital, Bujumbura, according to local journalists. He was held without access to a lawyer for two days before Télésphore Bigiriman, a spokesman for the country’s intelligence agency, confirmed his arrest in an interview with Agence France-Presse, according to news reports.
Local journalists said Ruvakuki was arrested in connection with a November 2011 trip he took to a rebel-held area along Burundi’s border with Tanzania, during which he recorded a statement from Pierre Claver Kabirigi, a former police officer who claimed to be the leader of a new rebel group, according to local journalists. The arrest came amid a government clampdown on coverage of the group. Radio Publique Africaine, another independent station, had also aired a recent interview with Kabirigi. The government-controlled media regulatory agency issued a directive forbidding coverage that could “undermine the security of the population.”
In June 2012, a court in the eastern town of Cankuzo found Ruvakuki guilty of “participating in terrorist attacks” under the penal code and sentenced him to life imprisonment, Patrick Nduwimana, interim director of Radio Bonesha, told CPJ. The defense raised numerous questions about the fairness of the legal proceedings, challenging the impartiality of the judges hearing the case, and saying they had blocked defense access to prosecution files. An appeal was pending in late year.