- Associated Press - Thursday, December 24, 2020

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) - Four journalists in Burundi whose imprisonment caused an outcry have been pardoned and released, according to a presidential decree.

The journalists with independent media outlet Iwacu had been serving two and a half years after being convicted on charges of attempting to undermine state security. They were arrested in October 2019 while covering clashes between a Congo-based rebel group and Burundian security forces in the western part of the country.

The decree was signed Wednesday by President Evariste Ndayishimiye, who had been urged to release the journalists, and loosen the repressive measures of the previous administration, after he took office in June.

”We are free, we are out of the prison now. Praised be the Lord,” one of the journalists freed Thursday, Agnes Ndirubusa, told The Associated Press.

”We are deeply relieved and very happy that Iwacu journalists have finally been freed,” said Muthoki Mumo, sub-Saharan Africa representative with the Committee to Protect Journalists. “We reiterate that they should never have spent even one moment behind bars simply for doing their jobs. We hope that their release, an important step, is only the first step to improve the conditions for journalists in Burundi so they can work freely.”

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