Burundi - Six months later, newspaper editor is questioned about coup attempt

Antoine Kaburahe, the editor of the weekly Iwacu, the only independent media outlet still functioning in Burundi, was questioned for two hours this morning by the prosecutor who is investigating the attempted coup of 13 May.

The representatives of several western embassies accompanied Kaburahe as far as the door of the prosecutor’s office. His lawyer, Lambert Nsabimana, confirmed that he was questioned in connection with the investigation into the coup attempt.

“Mr. Kaburahe is currently free but he has been asked to remain available to the judicial authorities,” Nsabimana told Reporters Without Borders. “We are surprised that Antoine Kaburahe was summoned and questioned more than six months after the events of May 2015,” said Cléa Kahn-Sriber, the head of the Reporters Without Borders Africa desk.

“We hope this was not an intimidatory measure. Burundi’s judicial system must distinguish between the military officers who staged the coup attempt and Burundi’s civil society, including the media, which have a legitimate right to speak out and tell their fellow citizens what is happening in Burundi.”

Other journalists have been questioned by judicial officials in connection with the coup investigation, known as Dossier 697. Radio-Télé Renaissance director Innocent Muhozi spent five hours in the prosecutor’s office on 1 July. He told Iwacu afterwards he was questioned about links between the media and the coup and, in particular, about the radio stations that broadcast the statements of those staging the coup.

The directors of other media outlets, including Radio Isanganiro and Radio Bonesha, have also been concerned by the investigation.

Iwacu, which has a weekly print-run of 3,000 copies, is the only independent media outlet still fully operational in Burundi. It provides constant news reporting in the form of a newsletter and a web TV. Around 90 journalists and media workers have fled into exile since the start of the crisis in Burundi and the forced closure of radio stations on 14 May.

Burundi is ranked 145th out of 180 countries in the 2015 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.