Four jailed Burundian journalists pardoned by president

NAIROBI, Dec 24 (Reuters) - Four Burundian journalists arrested in 2019 and jailed in January for offences including undermining state security have been granted a presidential pardon.

"Under the terms of the present decree, the convicted prisoners Ndirubusa Agnès, Harerimana Égide, Mpozenzi Terence are granted a complete remission of the freedom-depriving sentence," President Evariste Ndayishimiye said in a decree.

The three all worked for domestic news website Iwacu, as did a fourth journalist who was not mentioned in the decree but who confirmed his release on Thursday.

Willy Nyamitwe, head of information and communication in the president's office, tweeted on Thursday that the four journalists had written a letter requesting a pardon and the president "has favorably responded to it”.

Following the Burundi government's crackdown on journalists and human rights groups ahead of elections held in May, the Iwacu journalists were arrested in October 2019 after travelling to report on violence in the province of Bubanza.

They were jailed in January for 2-1/2 years for offences including undermining state security, a ruling criticised by Amnesty International as a sad day for press freedom in the central African country.

The journalists spent 430 days in prison before their release on Thursday, according to Antoine Kaburahe, head of the Iwacu press group.

Reporting by Nairobi newsroom Writing by Maggie Fick Editing by Mark Heinrich

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