Online Editor Jailed for Defamation
International PEN protests the three-week detention of Jean-Claude Kavumbagu, editor of the online press agency Net Press, who was arrested on September 11, 2008 and charged with defamation. The charges stem from an article on how the President allegedly overspent on his visit to the Beijing Olympics and caused the late payment of some civil servants’ salaries. PEN believes that Kavumbagu is being imprisoned in violation of his right to freedom of expression, as guaranteed by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, to which Burundi is a signatory, and is calling for his immediate and unconditional release.
According to PEN’s information, on September 11, journalist Jean-Claude Kavumbagu was arrested and charged with defamation. He alleged in an article that the cost of President Nkurunziza’s trip to see the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics caused some civil servants’ salaries to be paid late. He has been held in Mpimba Central Prison in the capital, Bujumbura.
Burundi is a signatory to both the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which guarantee the right to freedom of expression.
Jean-Claude Kavumbagu is the director of Burundian online press agency Net Press. The article in question alleged that the president had spent 100 million Burundian francs (about US$90,000) on his August 8 trip to China. The lawyer acting on behalf of Jean-Claude Kavumbagu told the local press that the government claimed that the trip had only cost half that amount, and that Jean Claude Kavumbagu was responsible for "libelous writing and insulting remarks."
Article 72 of the Burundian Code of Criminal procedure states that the accused must be brought before a court within 15 days of an arrest warrant being issued. If found guilty, he could be sentenced to between six months and five years in prison, and a fine of between 100,000 and 300,000 Burundian francs (US$90-260).
Write A Letter
- Expressing grave concern that journalist Jean-Claude Kavumbagu has been detained on defamation charges, simply for criticizing government expenditure;
- Urging the authorities to release him immediately and unconditionally, as he is a prisoner of conscience who has been detained solely for exercising his right to freedom of expression;
- Reminding the authorities that Burundi is a signatory to both the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which guarantee the right to freedom of expression.
Send Your Letter To
Président de la République Pierre Nkurunziza
Présidence de la République
Boulevard de l'Uprona
Fax: +257 22 22 74 90
Monsieur Jean-Bosco Ndikumana
Ministre de la Justice et Garde des Sceaux
Ministère de la Justice et Garde des Sceaux
Fax: +257 22 21 86 10
Please copy appeals to the diplomatic representative for Burundi in your country if possible.
Please check with PEN if sending appeals after October 24, 2008: ftw [at] pen.org