Four journalists from the Burundian Iwacu news outlet have been released under the pardon granted by President Evariste Ndayishimiye after spending more than a year in prison for allegedly posing a threat to internal security, Willy Nyamitwe, the head of the Information and Communications Division of the Burundian Presidency, said on Friday

MOSCOW (UrduPoint News / Sputnik – 25th December, 2020) Four journalists from the Burundian Iwacu news outlet have been released under the pardon granted by President Evariste Ndayishimiye after spending more than a year in prison for allegedly posing a threat to internal security, Willy Nyamitwe, the head of the Information and Communications Division of the Burundian Presidency, said on Friday.

The journalists were sentenced to two and a half years in prison on charges of threatening national security. They were arrested while on their way to report on hostilities between the security troops and an armed rebel group in northwestern Bubanza province. During their trial, the prosecution failed to present proof that the journalists were in contact with the rebel group from neighboring DR Congo.

“I would first like to remind you that the four journalists who are released by presidential pardon have previously sent the President of the Republic of Burundi a request for a presidential pardon, to which he responded favorably. In addition, the four journalists paid the fines at their expense.

They behaved well, they behaved in an exemplary manner during their detention. All these elements spoke in favor of their forgiveness,” Niamitwe said, as quoted by the RFI broadcaster.

The Iwacu news outlet, considered by the human rights groups as one of the last independent media in Burundi, has welcomed the release of its journalists.

Notably, 65 human rights groups have condemned the journalists’ imprisonment and called for their immediate release back in October, stressing that the issue of press freedom violations have been on the rise since 2015 amid political unrest over the decision of then-President Pierre Nkurunziza to run for the third term. It prompted violent riots, deaths and growing numbers of people fleeing from the country, while the authorities shut down a major national media outlet and blocked certain social media networks.

To date, Burundi ranks 160 out of 180 countries rated in the Reporters Without Borders’ 2020 press freedom index.

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