Another gifted journalist has disappeared into the maw of Burundi’s notoriously opaque security apparatus.
— Jessica Hatcher (@jessiehatcher) July 25, 2016
Jean Bigirimana, who works for the independent Iwacu Press Group, has been missing since last Friday. According to his colleagues at Iwacu news, Bigirimana’s disappearance has all the hallmarks of a kidnapping orchestrated by Burundi’s National Intelligence Service (SNR).
Bigirimana, previously with Rema FM Radio, went missing on 22nd July while on a work assignment for Iwacu. His colleagues say he may have drawn the unwelcome attention of intelligence agents by writing a story about exiled Burundian journalists in Rwanda.
Pierre Nkurunziza’s government isn’t particularly fond of the director of Iwacu news, Antoine Kaburahe, who it accuses of taking part in last year’s failed coup. Kaburahe now lives in exile in Belgium.
His colleagues say he may have drawn the unwelcome attention of intelligence agents by writing a story about exiled Burundian journalists in Rwanda
Bigirimana’s wife Godeberthe Hakizimana has made a teary appeal for his immediate release.
“He never hurts anyone. I ask those who have detained him to set him free,” she pleaded, adding,” We live in fear, think of me, my family and my children. For love of God, free Jean. Thank you and God bless you.”
In a report titled “Burundi: Abductions, Killings, Spread fear” published in February, Human Rights Watch called the world’s attention to the appalling trend of state-sanctioned disappearances and executions in the tiny East Africa Country. Bigirimana’s disappearance fits this pattern. Hope of his safe return is wearing thin. His wife says they have searched for the journalist in all the jails in the province to no avail so far. Pierre Nkurikiye, a spokesman for the police, says the missing journalist is not in their custody.
Online, Bigirimana’s Iwacu colleagues, other concerned journalists and media organisations have rallied together to put pressure on authorities in Burundi.
— Kim Dozier (@KimDozier) July 27, 2016
— Tim Isgitt (@tisgitt) July 27, 2016
— EurAc (@EurAc_Net) July 26, 2016
— KABURAHE (@AntoineKaburahe) July 26, 2016
— RNW Media (@RNW) July 25, 2016
*An earlier version of this piece inaccurately reported that Jean Bigirimana went missing in July after returning from attending a journalist training course in neighbouring Rwanda. We have since been reliably informed that the training actually took place in June. We regret the error.