community must reinforce the mobilization to free a life-sentenced journalist
in Burundi, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and the
Federation of African Journalists (FAJ) said today after a Burundian prosecutor
asked the appeal court to confirm the life sentence handed to journalist Hassan
Ruvakuki over “terrorism charges”.
international community must reinforce the mobilization to free our colleague
from jail. This is a shocking position from the prosecutor. He must know that
there is a big difference between a terrorist and a journalist. We remind
authorities in Burundi that our colleague has performed his professional duties
based on the citizens’ right to know and should not be condemned on these
charges of terrorism. Ruvakiki must be released,” said Gabriel Baglo, IFJ
According to Union of Burundi Journalists (UBJ), an
IFJ affiliate, prosecutor Emmanuel Nyandwi on November 9, the last day of an
appeal hearing in Gitega, central Burundi has asked the court to uphold the
life sentence handed to journalist Hassan Ruvakuki over “terrorism charges”.
Ruvakuki works for
the French radio station RFI's Swahili service and Bonesha FM. He was arrested
in November 2011 by the security forces after he had interviewed an opponent of
President Pierre Nkurunziza.
He has been
convicted and imprisoned on charges of “terrorism”. He was
sentenced to life imprisonment at a court ruling in July this year.
During an appeal
court which started on Thursday November 8, Ruvakuki said quoted by AFP: “I am not a terrorist. I have never, and
will never be one. I am a journalist. I do not deny going to Tanzania in
November 2011 to document the establishment of a new rebellion. I was simply
conducting my job as a non partisan journalist”. The appeal court is
expected to give a verdict in January 8.
The International Federation
of Journalists (IFJ), the Federation of African Journalists and the Union of
Burundi Journalists (UBJ) are deeply concerned with the situation and the
charges against Ruvakuki.
“The charges are
indicative of a global trend in which critical voices of the society are being
silenced, intimidated and imprisoned. We call on the Burundian government to
immediately drop the charges against Hassan Ruvakuki and demand his release,”
“It is evident
that the charges are very vague and no matter the nature of the accusation,
Hassan Ruvakuki should not be imprisoned to life. It is outrageous that a
journalist can be charged and convicted to life imprisonment simply by
conducting his professional duties. We demand the court to reverse the unjust
conviction brought against Hassan Ruvakuki and once again call the government
to adhere to the principle of fundamental freedoms and rights,” said Omar Faruk
Osman President of the Federation of African Journalists (FAJ).
‘’Ruvakuki must be
released. His place is not in prison. The international community must indeed
mobilize. If not we are heading towards a gross miscarriage of justice in this
case. We stand in never-ending solidarity with our colleague,” said Alexandre
Niyungenko, UBJ President.
For more information contact the IFJ on +221 33 867 95 86/87
The IFJ represents more than 600.000 journalists in 134 countries