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American journalist arrested by Burundi police over alleged evidence tampering

The government has accused media persons of 'conspiring' with the opposition to overthrow them, since the unrest began in April 2015. Photograph: (AFP)

WION Nairobi, Nairobi County, Kenya Oct 23, 2016, 11.37 PM (IST)

An American journalist, along with a local reported were arrested by the police in Burundi on Sunday for alleged destruction of criminal evidence. 

Julia Steers, a fellow with the International Women's Media Foundation, and Gildas Yihundimpundu were arrested in the Mutakura district north of the capital Bujumbura, police spokesman Pierre Nkurikiye wrote on his Twitter account.

The media regulator and the police had questioned both for "attempting to destroy evidence of crimes committed by protesters", before releasing Steers from custody. Her colleague was still being interrogated and her driver has also been detained. 

Police said the journalist had subsequently been released and handed to the US embassy, but her fixer remained under custody for further investigation.

Such arrests are not uncommon in the region, that has been marred by protests since last year when President Pierre Nkurunziza announced plans to run for a third term in office in April 2015.

The authourities had launched a crackdown on the media, accusing the press of being part of a "conspiracy" to overthrow it. 

The pair was the latest in a long line of journalists arrested by Burundi authorities. They have constantly silenced journalists at home and also lashed out at the international media. 

Burundi briefly arrested British and French journalists earlier this year, while other foreign journalists were expelled prior to that.

The US-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) estimates 100 journalists have been forced into exile since the violence erupted in the country. 

(WION with inputs from AFP)


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