HRW accuses Burundi of ‘flawed trial’ over jailed journalists

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Human Rights Watch (HRW) has accused Burundi of convicting four journalists in “a flawed trial”.

The rights group described the trial as “a clear example of the misuse of the justice system to stifle freedom of expression”. The four journalists in question were convicted and sentenced to two and a half years in prison on January 30 for “undermining state security” after they reported on an incursion of rebel troops from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

HRW condemns ‘flawed trial’ of convicted journalists

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has condemned the nature and outcome of the trial that convicted Christine Kamikazi, Agnès Ndirubusa, Egide Harerimana, and Térence Mpozenzi who all work for Burundi’s last remaining independent newspaper.

“Reporting on issues of public interest should not result in a criminal prosecution,” said Lewis Mudge, Central Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “The authorities are leading an assault on free expression in the months before the country’s 2020 elections.”

The rights group also criticised the fact that the charges placed against the defendants were changed without their knowledge, making it impossible to mount a valid defence.

“The charges were changed to attempted threat against state security. According to their lawyers, the defendants were neither informed of this change nor given an opportunity to defend themselves against this new accusation during the proceedings, violating fair trial standards.”

HRW has called for authorities in Burundi to immediately release the four journalists and restore media freedoms in the country.

Featured image: By Mononomic (wikipedia:User:Mononomic) – Image:Hrw_logo.gif, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6440997

About Aaron Brooks

Aaron Brooks is a UK journalist who wants to cut out the international agendas in news. Spending his early years in both England and Northern Ireland he saw the difference between reality and media coverage at an early age. After graduating from the University of Chester with a BA in journalism, his travels revealed just how large the gap between news and the real world can be. As Editor-in-Chief at East Africa Monitor, it’s his job to provide a balanced view of what’s going on in the region for English-speaking audiences.