A Burundi journalist is appealing her 10-year prison term at the country’s Supreme Court.
Floriane Irangabiye, who was convicted of undermining the integrity of Burundi’s national territory, has been detained since August 2022.
After a brief hearing last week in the capital, Bujumbura, Irangabiye was returned to prison to await the court’s verdict.
The case against Irangabiye is connected to her work as a commentator and host at Radio Igicaniro, a diaspora-based online outlet that is often critical of the government.
The journalist’s lawyers have renewed calls for her to be released.
“The role of human rights organizations is crucial in reining in countries that do not abide by the international law, so innocent journalists such as Floriane Irangabiye — who didn’t do anything wrong other than performing her duties as a journalist — are not kept in prison for another day,” said Tony Nkina, Irangabiye’s attorney.
Local and international press freedom groups have echoed those calls for Irangabiye’s release.
“Floriane Irangabiye does not belong in prison,” said Alexandre Niyungeko, chair of the Journalists Association in Burundi. “We once again urge the government of Burundi to release her, so she can be with her family and continue to do her journalism.”
When a court first convicted Irangabiye, the Committee to Protect Journalists and Reporters Without Borders, or RSF, both warned of the chilling effect the jailing could have.
Sadibou Marong, the director of RSF’s sub-Saharan African bureau, said in a statement last year that the case is intended to silence all critical voices in Burundi.
“This heavy sentence is extremely worrying and shows that Floriane Irangabiye was specifically targeted by the authorities over her work as a journalist,” Marong said.
“The authorities were unable to provide any tangible evidence to support their false accusations.”
Shortly after the court convicted Irangabiye last year, Muthoki Mumo, the sub-Saharan Africa representative at the Committee to Protect Journalists, said that “sentencing [her] to a decade behind bars demonstrates the state’s capacity for cruelty and its deep intolerance for politically critical commentators.”
Burundi’s Washington Embassy did not immediately reply to VOA’s email requesting comment. In January 2023, Sylvestre Nyandwi, Burundi’s prosecutor general at the time, told CPJ that Irangabiye’s conviction was not politically motivated.
Burundi’s media landscape was once vibrant, but it has deteriorated following a failed coup in 2015 and increased government repression, according to RSF. Out of 180 countries, the press freedom group ranks the African country 114th in terms of press freedom.
This story originated in VOA's Central Africa Service. Frederic Nkundikije and Pierre Claver Niyonkuru contributed to the report.