Nairobi, May 4, 2020 — In advance of an upcoming appeal hearing for four journalists at Burundian news website Iwacu, who were sentenced to 2.5 years in prison in January, the Committee to Protect Journalists issued the following statement:
“The journalists at Iwacu should never have been arrested, let alone sentenced to years in prison. With the spread of the novel coronavirus, each additional moment they spend in custody presents an unacceptable health risk,” said CPJ sub-Saharan Africa Representative Muthoki Mumo. “It is impossible to erase the suffering already visited on the four Iwacu journalists, but authorities can stop compounding the injustice by not contesting their appeal and immediately and unconditionally freeing them.”
The four journalists–broadcast reporter Christine Kamikazi, politics desk head Agnès Ndirubusa, English service reporter Egide Harerimana, and photojournalist Térence Mpozenzi–are scheduled to appear in court on May 6 for the appeal hearing, Iwacu director Léandre Sikuyavuga and founder Antoine Kaburahe told CPJ via messaging app. The journalists have been in custody since October 2019, and in January were convicted of undermining state security.
CPJ and 80 other media and human rights groups recently sent a letter to African heads of state, urging them to release all imprisoned journalists in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.