BUJUMBURA, Burundi – A Rwandan journalist arrested and charged with “spying” in neighbouring Burundi earlier this month has been released and has returned home, Kigali’s media commission said Friday.
Etienne Besabesa Mivumbi was arrested last week carrying his voice recorder and camera in Burundi’s northeastern Giteranyi district, as Bujumbura clamped down on the media it accuses of organizing anti-government protests.
Burundi has been in crisis since late April over President Pierre Nkurunziza’s controversial bid to stand for a third consecutive five-year term, a move branded by opponents as unconstitutional and a violation of a 2006 peace deal that ended 13 years of civil war.
“He was released on Thursday, and in the evening he returned to Rwanda,” Rwanda Media Commission president Cleophas Barore said, adding that the charge of spying had been dropped.
Several journalists who have been covering Burundi’s crisis, which has seen weeks of street demonstrations, a violent police crackdown and a failed coup attempt by a section of the army, have complained of being subjected to threats – including death threats – by members of the police or other branches of the security forces.
Mivumbi was working for the local Izuba radio and Igihe.com website. He was visited by Barore in prison last week.
“He told us in the presence of the prison warden that he had suffered a harsh interrogation,” Barore said.
Relations between Rwanda and Burundi have been tense after Rwanda President Paul Kagame urged Nkurunziza to end his bid for a third term. Parliamentary elections are planned for June 29, ahead of the presidential vote on July 15. – Rappler.com