Prominent Burundi independent radio boss flees country: activist

Prominent Burundi independent radio boss flees country: activist
A supporter of Burundi President Pierre Nkurunziza carries his picture while waiting for the president to return to the capital, at a street in Bujumbura, Burundi May 15, 2015.

BUJUMBURA, Burundi - The head of the prominent Burundian independent radio station RPA has fled the central African country amid a crackdown by security forces loyal to President Pierre Nkurunziza, a rights activist said Saturday.

African Public Radio (RPA) boss Bob Rugurika was subject to threats of jail and even death following a failed coup attempt against President Nkurunziza and "has had to seek shelter in another country," said Innocent Muhozi, head of the Burundian Press Observatory.

Two RPA journalists confirmed to AFP that Rugurika had fled.

Muhozi said a campaign of intimidation and repression was underway in the country.

"They want to break the journalists' morale. There is harassment, phone calls, threats, blacklists. Some have gone into exile, others are in hiding," he said.

Burundi's main independent radio stations were attacked and put off the air by loyalist troops during the coup attempt, which began on Wednesday and ended on Friday after a failed attempt by the plotters to seize Burundi's state broadcaster.

The general behind the coup, former intelligence chief Godefroid Niyombare, used an independent radion station to announce his bid to overthrow Nkurunziza.

Opposition and rights groups insist that it is unconstitutional for Nkurunziza, who has been in office since 2005, to run for more than two terms. The president, however, argues his first term did not count as he was elected by parliament, not directly by the people.

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