Representatives of eighteen press freedom and human rights organisations have written to the authorities in Burundi, asking the government to investigate attacks on journalists.
The organisations also noted that about 50 journalists had fled from Burundi since civil unrest broke out the tiny central African country following President Pierre Nkurunziza’s announcement to run for a third term.
The organisations also cited the closure of media outlets and castigated the recent attacks on human rights activist Pierre Claver Mbonimpa and journalist Esdras Ndikumana, who was brutalized by police and intelligence personnel.
‘The undersigned press freedom, media development and human rights organizations denounce the continued attacks on and threats to journalists, media workers and human rights defenders, most recently the serious incidents in which human rights defender Pierre Claver Mbonimpa survived an attempt on his life while journalist Esdras Ndikumana was the victim of a brutal attack by police and intelligence officials. Furthermore, we are very concerned by the continued closure of independent media outlets and the consequent lack of access to reliable information in Burundi’ the organisations wrote in an August 5 release.
They also urged the authorities to ensure that the journalists’ tormentors are brought to book and tried before court.
‘ We call on the Burundian authorities to investigate these attacks immediately and to ensure that those responsible are found and brought to justice in a fair trial’ the organisations wrote and implored government to cooperate with local and international stakeholders including the opposition, the UN and AU.
‘Finally, we encourage dialogue between the authorities and media, between the authorities and opposition parties and between authorities and United Nations and African Union representatives to create conditions conducive to building an environment of peace for all Burundians,’ the organisations state.
The communiqué was signed by Henry Maina, Regional Director, Eastern Africa, ARTICLE 19 Tom Henheffer, Executive Director, Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) Toby Mendel, Executive Director, Center for Law and Democracy Courtney Radsch, Advocacy Director, Committee to Protect Journalists Caroline Vuillemin, Director of Operations, Fondation Hirondelle, Ruth Kronenburg, Director, Free Press Unlimited Daniel Calingaert, Executive Vice President, Freedom House.
Others are Daniel Bekele, Africa Director, Human Rights Watch, Melody Patry, Senior Advocacy Officer, Index on Censorship, Ernest Sagaga, Head, Human Rights and Safety, International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), Jesper Højberg, Executive Director, International Media Support (IMS), Barbara Trionfi, Executive Director, International Press Insitute (IPI) Elisa Lees Munoz, Executive Director, International Women’s Media Foundation (IWMF).
Karin Deutsch Karlekar, Director, Free Expression Programs, PEN American Center Tamsin Mitchell, Africa Researcher and Campaigner, PEN International, Cléa Kahn-Sriber, Head of Africa Desk, Reporters sans Frontières, Tina Carr, Director, Rory Peck Trust and Ronald Koven the Acting Director, World Press Freedom Committee also signed the communiqué.