Foreign journalists released after Burundi police swoop

Police say weapons seized during Bujumbura raids in which one French and one British journalists were among those held.

    Burundi has been in political crisis since President Nkurunziza announced a bid to run for a third term in April 2015 [EPA]
    Burundi has been in political crisis since President Nkurunziza announced a bid to run for a third term in April 2015 [EPA]

    Two foreign journalists working in Burundi were released safely, 24 hours after police arrested them in a raid, colleagues said.

    "Phil Moore and Jean Philippe Remy have been released," the Foreign Correspondents' Association of East Africa said in a statement on Friday.

    "This is a big relief, of course, but the incident bodes ill for our work in Burundi."

    Presidential spokesman Willy Nyamitwe said in a series of tweets late on Thursday that officers arrested 17 people in the Jabe and Nyakabiga neighbourhoods, and that they recovered a cache of weapons.

    French journalist Remy, the Africa bureau chief for Le Monde newspaper, and Moore, a British freelance journalist and regular contributor to Al Jazeera English, were among those held.

    They were released on Friday afternoon after their press accreditation was revoked and their phones seized, SOS Médias Burundi said on Twitter.

    In a statement released earlier on Friday, La Monde said both journalists were legally in the country and "were merely exercising their profession by meeting all parties concerned with the current tensions in Burundi". 

    Gunshots and searches 

    Earlier, Nancy Ninette Mutoni, described as a senior media and communications adviser to the government, said in a separate tweet that a source confirmed that Remy and Moore were the two people identified as having "press accreditation" by a police spokesman who announced the 17 arrests on state television.

    Earlier on Thursday and before his arrest, Moore mentioned raids in the area in a number of tweets.

    Burundian journalists flee 

    Burundi has been in political crisis since President Pierre Nkurunziza announced his intention to run for a third term in office in April, going on to win a heavily disputed election three months later.

    Rights groups say that authorities have since cracked down on opposition parties, human rights activists and the media. At least 300 people have been killed in intermittent violence during the crisis and 215,000 others have fled the country.

    African leaders are scheduled to vote next week on whether to deploy a 5,000-strong African Union peacekeeping force in the country, a move Burundi strongly opposes.

    In November, Robert Mahoney, deputy director of the Committee to Protect Journalists, a press freedom lobby group, described independent media in Burundi as being  under attack.

    "Many journalists have fled the country. Those who remain are trying to work but the authorities seem intent on preventing them from covering hard news. This must stop," Mahoney said.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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