A technician with Radio Publique Africaine (RPA), a Burundian radio station that has been banned since April, Egide Mwemero was arrested two a half months ago in Uvira, a town in the eastern DRC that is very close to the Burundian border. Shortly after his arrest, he was taken to the Congolese capital, Kinshasa, where he is still being held.
Extradition back to his country of origin would put him in danger because the Burundian authorities are known to be persecuting journalists.
Mwemero was arrested by members of the National Intelligence Agency (ANR) while visiting the studios of Le Messager du People, a radio station that had for some time being broadcasting a political news programme produced by RPA and targeted above all at listeners in Burundi.
“He has never been taken before a judge and, in fact, he is not legally accused of committing any crime,” RPA director Bob Rugurika said.
“It was already bad enough that the Congolese authorities placed Egide Mwemero in detention without any justification,” Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Christophe Deloire said.
“Given the security situation of the Burundian population and journalists in particular, he would be in great danger if he were sent back to his country of origin. We urge the Congolese authorities to prevent his transfer and to release him at once.”
Reporters Without Borders and Journalist in Danger already condemned the arbitrary nature of Mwemero’s detention in October.
Intimidation of journalists and media censorship are standard practices in the DRC while the situation of the media is appalling in Burundi. Media outlets regarded as critical of the government have been forced to close by President Nkurunziza. There have been many cases of violence against journalists since the start of the current political crisis in April but none has been the subject of judicial proceedings.
Burundi and the DRC are ranked 145th and 150th respectively in the 2015 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.