British, French journalists released after one day arrest in Burgundi
Jan 30, 2016 03:12 AM EST
Burundi police on Thursday arrested a British journalist and a French colleague in a raid by police in the capital Bujumbara. Burundi security operatives alleged the two journalists were fraternising with an armed opposition group.
Burundi police spokesman Moise Nkurunziza said the police detained Phil Moore, a British photojournalist, and Jean Philippe Remy, a French journalist, along with 15 Burundians in the Jabe and Nyakabiga, a poor area of the capital Bujumbura, the Guardian reported.
Remy is the Africa bureau chief for the French newspaper Le Monde, while Moore is a freelance photographer on temporary assignment for Le Monde. Both men have covered Burundi for many years and have won awards for their coverage of sub-Saharan Africa.
Nkurunziza said the police arrested a British journalist during the raid. He added that the Frenchman had then come to ask about his British colleague's whereabouts and was also arrested "for interrogation motives".
Burundi security ministry said in a statement that the two journalists were arrested in the company of armed criminals. The ministry added that a mortar, a Kalashnikov rifle and pistols were also seized.
Le Monde newspaper had demanded the release of both journalists, saying they were the newspaper's special correspondents in Burundi. In a statement, Le Monde said both men had legally entered the country and "were merely doing their jobs in meeting all parties concerned in the current tensions in Burundi."
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius had also demanded the immediate release of the journalists. While the British Foreign Office said it was "urgently looking into reports" about the detention of a UK national, Reuters reported.
According to The Wall Street Journal, a staff member of the French embassy in Bujumbara said Remy and Moore were released from custody late Friday. Their phones and equipment were kept. Both journalists made no comment for reporters.
Burundi has been afflicted by violence since President Pierre Nkurunziza decided to run for a third term in April, despite a constitutional provision limiting the president to two terms. At least 439 people have been killed and 240,000 others have fled abroad since then.
The foreign journalists arrest came the same day Amnesty International released a report saying it has found five possible mass graves near Burundi's capital. The human-rights monitoring group alleges Burundian security forces of killing dozens of people during clashes in December.
The U.S. and European nations have critized Burundi's clampdown on media. Many Burundian reporters have been attacked, and independent radio stations have been closed. The country has also expelled foreign journalists.