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HomeJusticeBurundi: Journalist Floriane Irangabiye appears at the supreme court

Burundi: Journalist Floriane Irangabiye appears at the supreme court

 

Floriane Irangabiye, who is serving her sentence in prison for “endangering security” in a trial marred by numerous irregularities, had lodged an appeal as she appeared before the Supreme Court on Thursday The 11th of January 2024

Irangabiye recorded the first ever appearance in a court since her arrest back in August 2022. She is the only jailed journalist in Africa as hundred Burundians’ journalists remained exiled.

She was arrested in August 2022 and copped a 10 years’ imprisonment on 2 January 2023, she is accused, among other things, of undermining state security and collaborating with rebel movements.

Floriane Irangabiye, who is serving her sentence in prison for “endangering security” in a trial marred by numerous irregularities, had lodged an appeal as she appeared before the Supreme Court on Thursday The 11th of January 2024.

The journalist has already been convicted by two courts. She appealed to the Supreme Court in June 2023. She is currently detained for nearly three months in Bubanza central prison (western of Burundi).

The Supreme Court will hand down its decision this Thursday. Floriane Irangabiye has been detained for more than a year and 4 months. She is the only woman journalist currently in detention on the entire African continent.

Burundian and international journalists and human rights organisations are constantly calling for her release.

There were also human rights defenders, but they were a little discreet. It is also worth noting the presence of the President of the CNIDH, the independent national human rights commission, at this public hearing.

The previous hearings were a bit different from this one as they took place within the prison walls.

Floriane Irangabiye was convicted at first instance on 3 January by the Tribunal de Grande Instance in Mukaza, and the Mukaza Court of Appeal upheld this ruling on 2 May 2023. But her defense appealed.

In its arguments before the Appeal Chamber of the Bujumbura Supreme Court, it pointed out that the trial had been marred by irregularities.

Floriane Irangabiye’s lawyers spoke of a violation of legal procedure, with “erroneous elements of the offense and falsified records, fabricated by the National Intelligence Service but which were taken into consideration by the judges without taking into account the records of the accused”.

In court, the defense denounced these shortcomings, pointing out that “the judges knowingly ignored the material, intentional and legal elements in their judgment”.

After a trial that lasted just ten minutes, the President of the Supreme Court decided to take the case under advisement.

Floriane Irangabiye’s defense is optimistic that this time their grievances will be taken into consideration and that they will finally win their case: “In view of the attention and the way in which the court listened to our defense, there is a glimmer of hope that she will be released”.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemned the “harsh and arbitrary” ten-year prison sentence.

“This harsh sentence is extremely disturbing and shows that the authorities targeted Floriane Irangabiye because of her work as a journalist. This deplorable attack on press freedom sends a message designed to silence all critical journalists”, said Sadibou Marong, Director of RSF’s sub-Saharan Africa bureau

“The authorities have been unable to produce any hard evidence to support the spurious charges. This court’s decision must be overturned and this journalist must be released immediately”, added Sadibou. 

“This harsh sentence is extremely disturbing and shows that the authorities targeted Floriane Irangabiye because of her work as a journalist. This deplorable attack on press freedom sends a message designed to silence all critical journalists”, said Sadibou Marong, Director of RSF’s sub-Saharan Africa bureau

The case state of affairs

Floriane Irangabiye, a columnist and presenter on Radio Igicaniro – an online medium broadcasting from Rwanda – was arrested in Matana, in southern Burundi, on 30 August 2022 by agents of the National Intelligence Service (SNR).

The journalist lived in exile in Rwanda but at the time was visiting Burundi to attend a funeral. After her arrest, Floriane Irangabiye was immediately transferred to intelligence headquarters in the capital, Bujumbura.

On 8 September 2022, after more than a week of questioning without the presence of a lawyer, she was transferred to Mpimba Central Prison. On 29 September 2022, she was taken by night to Muyinga Prison in the north-east of the country.

On 27 October 2022, around two months after her arrest, Floriane Irangabiye was officially charged with “undermining the integrity of national territory”.

The sentence came down on 2 January 2023. The Burundian journalist was sentenced to ten years’ imprisonment and a fine of 1,000,000 Burundian francs (around €450) for “undermining the integrity of national territory” under article 611 of the Criminal Code.

An appeal against her conviction was lodged on 31 March and, in a ruling handed down on Tuesday 2 May, an appeal court in Bujumbura upheld the decision of the court of first instance.

In August 2022, she was accused of hosting a discussion with two critics of the Burundian authorities – Bob Rugurika, Director of Radio Publique Africaine (RPA) and Maître Janvier Bigiramana, lawyer and National Coordinator of Tournons la Page (TLP-Burundi) – on Radio Igicaniro, an online medium.

During the debate, the journalist, without explicitly advocating violence, strongly criticized the Burundian government and encouraged Burundians to oppose the authorities, which is a matter of freedom of expression.

According to human right defendants, the confirmation of Floriane Irangabiye’s sentence of ten years in prison is an abusive and biased sentence, motivated by a political desire to silence any opposition or critical voice, in a context of monopolization of power by the National Council for the Defence of Democracy – Forces for the Defence of Democracy (CNDD-FDD), the former rebellion between 1993 and 2003, which became the dominant political party in power in 2005.

Since the failed coup in 2015 ahead of the controversial third term of late Pierre Nkurunziza, the human rights situation in Burundi remains critical. Journalism remains difficult as they fear for repression on the field, all media outlets have become state owned leaving only one independent media house which is always under surveillance.

According to Reporters Sans Frontières (RSF), practicing journalism has been fraught in Burundi ever since a political crisis in 2015, when many journalists either fled the country or were put on trial and were given long jail sentences, devastating the country’s media landscape.

Both civil society and the independent media are still unable to exercise their profession freely: twelve defenders and journalists living abroad are still being unfairly convicted and their organizations banned in Burundi.

“Extrajudicial executions and forced disappearances of opponents continue. The pro-government militias – more commonly known as Imbonerakure – have still not been disbanded and continue to terrorize the population throughout the country”, reports RSF.

According to RSF impunity remains the rule for the perpetrators and those responsible for serious human rights violations, particularly with regard to the large number of enforced disappearances that occurred after 2015.

Observers say that the election of President Évariste Ndayishimiye had raised hopes of putting an end to the widespread human rights crisis in Burundi. But the ruling party, the CNDD-FDD, has in fact retained its monopoly on the country after the 2020 elections, and is holding on to power through fear and control of society.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Espoir Iradukunda
Espoir Iradukundahttps://insideburundi.org
Data Investigative Journalist
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