IFJ Strongly Condemns Life Jail Term Handed Down to Journalist in Burundi

 

The

International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today condemned in the strongest

terms the ruling of the Provincial High Court in Cankuzo Province in

Burundi which

sentenced to life imprisonment Hassan Ruvakiki, a journalist with Bonesha radio

and a local correspondent of Radio France International. 

According

to the Union of Burundi Journalist (UBJ), an IFJ affiliate, the court convicted

the journalist with “terrorism” based on the accusations which had been leveled

against him for interviewing a rebel leader and broadcasting the interview.

 

“This is a

shocking ruling which has no basis whatsoever and our colleague is a victim of

a gross miscarriage of justice,” said Gabriel Baglo, Director of the IFJ Africa

Office. “Hassan has never engaged in illegal acts designed to endanger the

lives of the Burundian citizens by broadcasting an interview that he had

conducted. He has performed his professional duties based on the citizens’

right to know and should not be condemned on these bogus charges of terrorism.”

 

The IFJ

had dismissed the charges against Hassan Ruvakiki as trumped up accusations and

said that his trial was marred by deep flaws of due process.

“The whole

judicial process in the case of our colleague was a travesty of justice from

start to finish, with the sole purpose of intimidating the independent media in

Burundi,” added Baglo.

 

The UBJ

also condemned the ruling, saying that the judge paid no attention to the defence’s compelling case.

“We

believe that our colleague has no case to answer and we are deeply disappointed

by this verdict,” said UBJ President Alexandre Niyungeko. “We look to the

Appeal Court to set aside this ruling and free Hassan.”

 

The

verdict was also criticised by the Eastern Africa Journalists

Association (EAJA) Secretary General Omar Faruk Osman who described it “a cruel

and a blow to press freedom in the region”. “The arrest and the whole trial

were politically motivated and the verdict is a great affront to press

freedom,” added Osman.

 

Ruvakiki

was arrested in November 2011 by the security forces after he had interviewed

an opponent of President Pierre Nkurunziza in neighbouring Tanzania. 

 

 For more information contact the IFJ on

+221 33 867 95 86/87

The IFJ represents more than 600.000 journalists in

134 countries