REGIONS:

GOVERNMENT TARGETS CIVIL SOCIETY ACTIVISTS, JOURNALISTS

The human rights situation in Burundi appears to be deteriorating, with a growing number of civil society activists and independent journalists arrested and harassed in recent months, report Human Rights Watch, Journaliste en danger (JED), the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières, RSF) and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

Since May 2006, the government has arrested three journalists and two civil society activists on excessively broad and poorly substantiated charges, says Human Rights Watch. All are currently in jail in the capital, Bujumbura.

Terence Nahimana, a peace activist, has been detained since May after being arrested on charges of threatening state security. He had written a letter to Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza, questioning delays in peace talks with rebels. Authorities claim the letter could have incited the public against the government. Nahimana has been brought to trial and is currently awaiting a verdict.

Gabriel Rufyiri, head of the Observatory for the Fight Against Corruption and Economic Embezzlement (OLUCOME), faces jail on charges of defaming a businessman. OLUCOME, a group that has documented hundreds of corruption cases in Burundi in the last decade, had reported on the businessman's allegedly illegal dealings. No date has been set for the trial.

Three journalists have been jailed since November and face charges of endangering national security, report JED, IFJ, RSF and CPJ.

On programmes aired on Radio Isanganiro and Radio Publique Africaine (RPA), Matthias Manirakiza, Serge Nibizi and Domitile Kiramvu cast doubt on an alleged coup plot which the government says it foiled in August.

The journalists had cited sources in a report who alleged that a fake attack on the presidential palace was being planned to strengthen accusations against the alleged coup plotters.

Several top opposition leaders, including the former president, are currently on trial for alleged participation in the plot.

Another three journalists have been summoned for questioning in the past two weeks in relation to the alleged coup plot. They include Bob Rugurika and Christelle Ruvari of RPA, and Corneille Nibaruta, director of Bonesha FM. Nibaruta did not appear at the state prosecutor's office on 1 December as requested and has since gone missing.

Meanwhile, RPA director Alexis Sinduhije, a recipient of CPJ's International Press Freedom Award in 2004, has been in hiding since September over fears that he could also be jailed.

Visit these links:

- IFEX Alerts on Burundi: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/31/
- JED: http://www.jed-afrique.org/en/full_view.php?id_alerte=612
- Human Rights Watch: http://www.hrw.org/english/docs/2006/12/09/burund14802.htm
- Background on Burundi: http://hrw.org/english/docs/2006/01/18/burund12285.htm
- IFJ: http://www.ifj.org
- CPJ: http://www.cpj.org/news/2006/africa/burundi29nov06na.html
- RSF: http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=19874

Latest Tweet:

Is draconian law on state secrets taking #Japan back 50 years http://t.co/K57C2eXoe9 | @rsf_rwb