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Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Burundi detains head of private radio station

From Media Network weblog:
Burundi authorities detained the head of a private radio station today over the broadcasting of information deemed to threaten state and public security, officials said. The arrest of Matthias Manirakiza, the head of Radio Isanganiro, brings to three the number of journalists working for private media to be arrested in a week in connection with a vaguely defined coup plot. “Magistrates have decided to detain the director of Radio Isanganiro, Mr Manirakiza, at the central Mpimba prison for authorising the broadcast of information that can threaten state and public security,” said Raphael Gahungu, Manirakiza’s lawyer. Manirakiza was detained a day after authorities grilled two journalists from the private Radio Public Africaine for allegedly divulging information about an ongoing probe into the coup plot against Burundi’s year-old government. “Manirakiza’s fate had been determined beforehand,” Gahungu said. “It was evident from the number of police officers sent here and the denial of access to journalists at the court.” Manirakiza was driven straight to prison after being interrogated by judicial officers for nearly three hours. In August, his station said that police had prepared a fake attack at the presidential palace to back claims of the alleged putsch, for which the country’s former president Domitien Ndayizeye and six other high-ranking politician have been detained. “The government is brazenly violating the law. This government is no longer hiding that it wants to silence private radios that denounce the numerous abuses committed in this country,” Frank Kaze, the head of Burundi’s journalists’ union, told AFP. “We are asking the international community to pressure the government so that justice can be done,” he added. The Bujumbura government has come under fire since it launched a crackdown in August against those suspected to be behind the ill-defined coup, with some observers saying it is becoming increasingly intolerant of criticism. Last week, five private radio stations muted their news broadcasts to protest the detention of the two journalists detained for allegedly breaching judicial and state secrecy by reporting on the coup. (Source: AFP)

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