IFJ and FAJ Call On the International Community to Reinforce the Mobilization to Free a Life-Sentenced Journalist in Burundi

The international

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”.

 

‘’The

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

Africa Director.

 

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,”

added Baglo.

 

“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