Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has staged a protest outside the Embassy of Burundi in Paris to demand information on the whereabouts of Burundian journalist Jean Bigirimana.
The group deposited an enormous pile of envelopes outside the embassy symbolizing the 11,000 signatures on an RSF petition for an investigation into Bigirimana’s disappearance as activisits chanted “Where is Jean Bigirimana?”
Saturday marked exactly 100 days since the journalist disappeared. He had gone out on July 22 to meet a source in Muramvya, a small town, 50 kilometers east of Burundi’s capital, Bujumbura after a phone call.
Some witnesses said they had seen him with members of the National Intelligence Service (SNR), and that was the last time anybody saw him.
Burundian authorities initially said they were holding Bigirimana but then retracted and thereafter said nothing, RSF said on its website.
Cléa Kahn-Sriber who heads RSF’s Africa desk is calling on Burundian authorities to “open an official investigation to determine exactly what happened to Jean Bigiriman. Is he being held by the intelligence services? Was he killed? Not knowing has become a living hell for his family and colleagues”.
In August, two bodies were found in a river downstream from Muramvya but they were in a condition that made identification difficult. One of the bodies was headless.
Bigirimana’s disappearance comes amid a clampdown on privately-owned media in Burundi.
The clampdown began in April 2015 with the suspension of Radio Publique Africaine, a very popular privately-owned radio station.
RSF says journalists working in Burundi are constantly subjected to threats and intimidation and there is no sign of any let-up in the harassment.
Violence broke out in Burundi in April 2015 following an announcement by president Pierre Nkurunziza that he would seek a third term in office. Tension is still high in the country as a result of the political crisis.
Burundi dropped 11 places in the latest World Press Freedom index by Reporters Without Borders to rank 156 out of 180 countries, an indication of the decline of press freedom of in the country.