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Police attack journalists marching for imprisoned reporter in Burundi

(CPJ/IFEX) - The following is a CPJ Blog post:

By Tom Rhodes/CPJ East Africa Consultant

On Tuesday, Burundi's press corps did what it has done for the past three weeks: protest the imprisonment of one of its own. Hassan Ruvakuki is a reporter jailed since November 28, 2011 on anti-state charges; for the first time, the journalists wore white t-shirts showing Ruvakuki in his green prison uniform. But this time, the reaction by police caught journalists by surprise.

"We were walking peacefully towards the Justice Ministry, a march that we stage every Tuesday to demand the release of our colleague Hassan Ruvakuki," said Antoine Kaburahe, editor of the independent weekly Iwacu, in an interview in his newspaper after the march. "To date, the march was taking place without incident, with the escort of police."

However, on Tuesday, police in the capital Bujumbura blocked the journalists before they could reach the ministry, said Patrick Nduwimana, the interim director of Bonesha FM, a station for which Ruvakuki also works. "When they blocked our path, we just turned around, peacefully, to return to our respective newsrooms, but they even stopped us from doing this." Nduwimana told me the police fired teargas and beat journalists with the butts of their guns. "They ran behind the journalists, some fell to the ground and the police hit angrily on men and women on the street," Kaburahe later told Iwacu. Fortunately, there were no serious injuries and no arrests, Nduwimana said. Police detained Innocent Muhoze, the director of private broadcaster Radio-Télé Renaissance, for a few minutes, but released him without charge, local journalists said.

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