Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is calling for the immediate release of Jean Bigirimana, a journalist who was arrested by the National Intelligence Service (SNR) in the central province of Muramvya on 22 July without any official grounds being given. RSF regards his detention as arbitrary.
Jean Bigirimana, who used to work or Radio Rema FM and now works for Infos Grands Lacs and Iwacu, has been held for the past three days by the provincial branch of the SNR.
According to his family, he was arrested after leaving his home at around 1 p.m. on 22 July for Bugarama. When they heard he had been detained, relatives went to the scene of the arrest, where they were told that it had been carried out by members of the SNR in the presence of local officials.
This was confirmed by sources within the SNR, who criticized Bigirimana’s frequent visits to Rwanda. He recently returned from a journalism seminar in this neighbouring country. No other reason – whether legal or not – was given for his arrest.
His wife, Godeberte Hakizimana, has posted an appeal on the SOS Médias Burundi website, urging the authorities to go to her husband’s aid. “He is in great danger,” the appeal said. “He has not eaten for several days. You must get him out of there.”
Bigirimana’s detention was referred today to National Council for Communication president Ramadhan Karenga, who undertook to follow the case.
“We call for journalist Jean Bigirimana’s immediate release,” RSF said. “The use of such arbitrary arrest methods to intimidate media personnel contributes to the continuing crisis in Burundi and helps to undermine the rule of law.
Burundi is ranked 156th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2016 World Press Freedom Index, after falling 11 places last year.