Jailing of Burundian journalist raises concerns ahead of elections – UN rights office
6 February 2015 – The imprisonment of Burundian journalist Bob Rugurika raises serious concerns about the exercise of the freedom of expression in Burundi, particularly ahead of the upcoming elections, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said today.
Mr. Rugurika, the Director of the independent Radio publique africaine (RPA), was arrested on 20 January following RPA broadcasts that included allegations about the involvement of senior intelligence officials in the killing of three Italian nuns, according to OHCHR.
Today’s statement follows the refusal by a court in the Burundian capital of Bujumbura on Feb. 4 to hear a request by his lawyers for his provisional release. Mr. Rugurika could face long-term imprisonment for complicity in murder, among other charges that could be considered, according to OHCHR.
OHCHR spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani called on the authorities to ensure that Mr. Rugurika’s case would be handled in line with international due process standards and fair trial guarantees, in accordance with Burundi’s international commitments.
“No one should be prosecuted for legitimately exercising his fundamental right to freedom of expression and opinion,” the spokesperson was quoted as saying.
The UN Human Rights country office in Burundi had visited Rugurika in prison, had held discussions with the authorities and would continue to monitor the case, Ms. Shamdasani told reporters at a press briefing in Geneva today.
“Mr. Rugurika’s case raises serious concerns about the exercise of the freedom of expression in Burundi, particularly ahead of the upcoming elections,” she said.
OHCHR said it had previously urged the Government to review the Media Law, which required journalists to reveal their sources when they reported on issues such as state security and public order, legislation that could lead “all too easily to infringements of freedom of expression.”