By Felix Okello & RSF Team
Burundi-The fight for Press Freedom has been rough with several countries still not adhering to the call to have free press in their countries.
One such country is Burundi, that was faced with political turmoil recently. And the effect of the failed coup took toll on journalists who reported the incidences and challenged the democratic principles in the country.
Now, it has been exactly one year since the day of journalist Jean Bigirimana’s disappearance in Burundi. According to Reporters Without Borders (RSF) Bigirimana was last seen on June 22nd, 2016 in the province of Murumvya. Witnesses reportedly saw him in the custody of members of the National Intelligence Service (SNR).
Bigirimana worked for the outlets Iwacu and Infos Grands Lacs, and often wrote about the life of exiled Burundian journalists living in Rwanda. He left home after receiving a phone call from a source in the country’s national intelligence service before he disappeared. His whereabouts remain unknown.
So far, 11,450 people who are concerned about his whereabouts have signed a petition and want to bring peace to his family.
Burundi dropped four places on the World Press Freedom Index this year, and now ranks 160 out of 180 countries. It moved from the red zone to the black zone on the World Press Freedom Map, meaning that press freedom in Burundi transitioned from a difficult situation to an extremely serious one.
There have been renewed calls both from media associations in the country and Reporters Without Borders to Burundi government to conduct investigation and trace the whereabouts of Journalist Bigirimana.
Several journalists across the globe find difficulty in executing their duties especially due to state actors pulling a heavy hand of them especially on articles that are critical of them. The continued harassment, arrests, torture or killings have pushed some journalists out of the profession as they safeguard their lives.
In Uganda, Human Rights Network for Journalists (HRNJ) has been at the fore front in protecting the rights of journalists. The Press Index Report released last year faulted security agencies as the worst perpetrators of violence against journalists.
The media freedom landscape remains a rocky and murky waters to tread on in a country that is striving to be governed on democratic principles.