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Burundi TV reporter suspected of state security breach


A Burundian television journalist who was arrested last week is wanted for breaching state security, a spokesman for the intelligence services said Sunday.

Telesphore Bigirimana confirmed to AFP that journalist Lucien Rukevya was arrested on Thursday along with three other people, including an officer from the M23, a rebel group operating in the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo.

The three others are professor and former minister Ignace Bankamwabo and two Congolese men, including "Colonel Shaka Jean-Marie Muhoza from the M23 rebel group," Bigirimana said.

"They were arrested in possession of incriminating documents ... For the time being they are accused of breaching state security," Bigirimana said without elaborating.

Bigirimana said the journalist "hasn't yet been formally charged but they are all being interrogated so we can shed light on their respective roles".

Intelligence sources said Rukevya spent the first 24 hours of his detention in a secret prison run by the branch of the intelligence services that answers directly to the presidency.

Alexandre Niyungeko, head of the Burundi Journalists' Union (UBJ), reported Friday that Rukevya had been detained by the country's intelligence services, adding he had heard he was accused of working with the M23 rebels.

On Sunday he expressed concern about the case.

"A journalist who has fallen foul of the law can obviously be arrested, but we are particularly worried because our colleague has been refused a lawyer, even though the law stipulates that he should be allowed one," Niyungeko said.

"Everyone knows that detainees held in secret prisons are often tortured, sometimes to death," Niyungeko went on, questioning what "value" any confession that Rukevya might be forced to make would have.

The UBJ is all the more worried because Rukevya is the third Burundian journalist to be arrested in the 10 days that followed the promulgation of a controversial media law.

The law restricts a journalist's right to protect his sources and limits the right to publish certain types of sensitive information, including that pertaining to national security.

It was approved by President Pierre Nkurunziza on June 4.