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Burundi cameraman, family shot dead by security forces: residents

October 14, 2015

A Burundian journalist, his wife and their two children were shot dead by security forces in a flashpoint district of the capital Bujumbura amid tensions following the re-election of President Pierre Nkurunziza, residents said Wednesday.

Burundian police spokesman Pierre Nkurikiye said at least six people, including an officer, were killed on Tuesday in violence in the anti-Nkurunziza neighbourhood of Ngagara.

Residents however accused the security forces of killing at least seven civilians, including the journalist and his family.

In a statement on Twitter, Nkurikiye said two police officers had been kidnapped by “insurgents” in Ngagara.

One officer was killed and one was severely wounded by gunfire, the spokesman said, adding that five other people were killed in clashes that erupted when the police intervened.

A third police officer who had also allegedly been kidnapped was later found safe and sound, Nkurikiye said.

Several residents however gave a different version of events.

They said members of the presidential guard (API) “executed” at least seven civilians by shooting them in the head or the chest.

Among the dead was RTNB cameraman Christophe Nkezabahizi, his wife and two of their children — a 16-year-old girl and a 14-year-old boy.

The journalist, who was in his sixties, and his family were shot at close range in their home, their neighbours told AFP.

Burundi has been gripped by unrest since Nkurunziza announced he was running for a controversial third term, which the opposition, civil society and even sections of his own party said violated the constitution as well as the Arusha peace deal that ended the central African country’s civil war in 2006.

The crisis has intensified since Nkurunziza’s re-election in July, with assassinations targeting figures on both sides of the divide, attacks against the police and summary executions.

– Journalist arrested –

The United Nations warned last month that Burundi risked sliding back into civil war after a dramatic rise in killings, arrests and detentions, with almost 200,000 refugees fleeing to neighbouring nations.

Separately, in the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundian radio journalist Egide Mwemero was arrested on Tuesday along with two local media workers, said Mutere Kifara, director of Burundi’s African Public Radio (RPA).

The radio station, which has been banned in Burundi and has since been headquartered in the South-Kivu province of DR Congo, was once the restive, landlocked country’s most popular.

The Congolese journalist and technician were released Wednesday, but Mwemero is still in custody, Kifara said.

Confirming his arrest, South-Kivu’s Information Minister Bernadette Masoka told AFP Mwemero had “used words that seriously threatened peace in Burundi”.

Media rights watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemned the arrest and called on the Congolese authorities to free the journalist immediately.

“This abrupt act of censorship by the Congolese government is unacceptable,” said Clea Kahn-Sriber, head of RSF’s Africa desk.

“The raid clearly reflects the wish of the Burundian authorities, whose desire to suppress all dissident reporting had been thwarted.”

Burundi and DR Congo are ranked 145th and 150th of 180 countries on RSF’s 2015 press freedom index.

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Dispatches from AFP concerning freedom of information, censorship and news coverage in regions where independent media is under threat.