Burundi radio complains of harassment

2010-10-05 13:06

Bujumbura - One of Burundi's most popular private radio stations, African Public Radio (RPA), complained Tuesday of government harassment after several staff members were interrogated.

"RPA is being harassed by the government," the radio's secretary general Andre Palice Ndimurukundo said, complaining that both administrative staff and journalists had been taken in for questioning over the past week.

He said RPA's staffer in charge of transport had been detained by the intelligence services for 16 days.

On Monday the radio's finance director Alain Ntamagendero was summoned for the third time before a commission made up of police and magistrates and a journalist at RPA's branch in the northern town of Ngozi was questioned for the second time by police, Ndimurukundo said.

On Friday Leonce Niyongabo, who runs the Ngozi branch, was questioned and RPA's legal representative, Jean-Marie Vianney Hicuburundi, was interrogated on both Wednesday and Thursday.

"It looks increasingly clear this is a complete set up concocted by the intelligence services who are using a man named Joel to implicate RPA in an arms trafficking affair," Ndimurukundo said.

Joel (Eds: one name) is the Ngozi province head of the Movement for Solidarity and Development (MSD), the opposition party founded by the former journalist Alexis Sinduhije after he stopped running RPA.

The RPA, which is very critical of the authorities, is seen as the voice of the opposition.

"They (the police) want to implicate RPA in MSD business and by extension in things to do with the fledgling rebellion," Ndimurukundo went on, insisting "RPA has nothing to do with the MSD".

"The truth is the authorities want to close down RPA because they accuse us of reporting on embarrassing issues such as corruption and bad governance." A senior police officer however told AFP the investigations are part of "an in-depth inquiry linked to a criminal case" and added "we have a very damning file on RPA, which is helping Burundi's enemies ... it will be made public at the appropriate time".

The authorities suspect that the MSD and the former rebels of the National Liberation Forces are behind the latest unrest in the country that has left more than 30 people dead in two weeks.

Burundi is emerging from 13 years of civil war that left more than 300 000 people dead.