Reporters Without Borders condemns the severe beating that Esdras Ndikumana, a respected journalist working for Radio France Internationale and Agence France-Presse, received from members of the security forces yesterday in Bujumbura, and urges the authorities to protect journalists who are trying to do their job.
“We are dismayed and outraged to learn of this disgraceful attack on the RFI and AFP correspondent, which was tantamount to an act of torture,” Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Christophe Deloire said. “We call on the authorities to begin an immediate investigation into this act of barbarity in order to identify and punish those responsible. As Burundi sinks deeper into crisis by the day, when will the authorities realize that journalists are essential for democratic stability? The authorities must guarantee the safety of journalists so that they are free to do their job of reporting the news for both the Burundian and international public.” Well-known for his professionalism as a reporter, Esdras Ndikumana was taking photos of the site of Gen. Adolphe Nshimirimana’s death in a shooting attack earlier yesterday when members of the government security forces arrested him. According to our sources, several parliamentarians and government representatives were present, but none of them intervened. Ndikumana was thrown into the back of a truck, where he was given an initial beating. Then he was taken to the headquarters of the National Intelligence Service, where he was forced to the ground and every part of his body was beaten. After two hours of this torture, his assailants took his personal effects and let him go, saying he was an “enemy journalist” and should consider himself “lucky to be still alive.” Government representatives had accused Ndikumana of being an “enemy collaborator” the previous day at the airport. It is clear that he was the victim of a deliberate attack that, through him, targeted the international media, including RFI, which continues to broadcast locally in Burundi. Reached by radio, presidential adviser Willy Nyamitwe undertook to shed light on the attack on Ndikumana but otherwise had little to say about the matter. Ever since an abortive coup attempt on 14 May, Burundi’s privately-owned media have been closed on the grounds that a judicial investigation is under way into the violence, although there is little sign of the investigation making any progress. Journalists have not only been prevented from working freely but have also been the targets of repeated attacks and threats that go completely unpunished. Dozens of journalists have fled abroad, where they live in extremely precarious conditions. Those still in Burundi are scared and, since they have no work, lack any source of income. Burundi is ranked 145th out the 180 countries in the 2015 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.