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Journalist summoned by prosecutor goes missing; IFJ calls for end of intimidation campaign against independent journalism

(IFJ/IFEX) - The following is a 5 December 2006 IFJ media release:

IFJ Calls for End of Intimidation Campaign Against Independent Journalism in Burundi

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today called on the government of Burundi to put an end to the repression of journalists after the government has stepped up its campaign of intimidation against journalists who have issued critical reports of an attempted coup in the country.

Three journalists have been jailed and four others summoned by the prosecutor in the capital city of Bujumbura in less than two weeks in relation to reporting they did about an attempted coup in the country.

Corneille Nibaruta, director of radio station Bonesha FM, was summoned to the prosecutor's office on 1 December but never arrived there. He has since gone missing, colleagues said.

The three imprisoned journalists will appear before the prosecutor on Wednesday.

The latest wave of arrests and summons of journalists is related to reports in private media that the government arranged a coup attempt that it has claimed it foiled.

On 29 November, the director of the radio station Isanganiro, Matthias Manirakiza, was jailed for allegedly "broadcasting information which could disturb public and security order". The accusation stems from a report aired on his radio station on August 29, 2006, on the imminent attack of the presidential palate and the residence of Hussein Rajabu, president of the ruling party, by elements of the police force.

The IFJ first heard of the attempts to intimidate journalists after the editor-in-chief of Radio Publique Africaine (RPA), Serge Nibizi, and the journalist Domitille Kiramvu were summoned by the prosecutor on November 22 and arrested for allegedly threatening state security and broadcasting information on a case under judicial investigation. Three other journalists of RPA have been questioned and released.

"This repression of independent journalism is unacceptable and we are calling on the government to put an end to it immediately," said Gabriel Baglo, Director of the IFJ Africa Office. "These journalists have been targeted purely for political reasons; the prosecutor has no case against them. We are calling for their immediate and unconditional release."

On 29 November, professional media associations in Burundi denounced this "sequence of acts of intimidation targeting media professionals" and launched a petition for the release of the imprisoned journalists.

These organizations met with the vice-president of Burundi and the representation of the United Nations in the country in an attempt to alleviate the tensions between the private media and the government.

The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 110 countries.

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