, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 30 – Two foreign journalists working in volatile Burundi were released without charge Friday, 24 hours after police arrested them in a raid, the French ambassador said.
French journalist Jean-Philippe Remy, Africa bureau chief for French daily Le Monde, and British photojournalist Phil Moore, were arrested on Thursday afternoon during a raid in which 15 others were also held, police said.
Both journalists have covered the region for years winning several awards for their work. Their arrest sparked widespread condemnation from rights groups and diplomats.
“They were released, no charges were brought against them,” French ambassador Gerrit Van Rossum told AFP, but added they had not been given their equipment and notebooks back.
The Foreign Correspondents’ Association of East Africa (FCAEA), who described the journalists as “consummate professionals”, said that while their release was “a big relief… the incident bodes ill for our work in Burundi.”
Police said a mortar, a Kalashnikov rifle and pistols were seized in the raid in Nyakabiga, a Bujumbura suburb and anti-government protest hotspot.
Moore, 34, has frequently worked for AFP and other international publications, winning widespread recognition for his photographs of conflicts in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo as well as Libya, Somalia and Syria.
Remy, 49, has won several awards, including the 2013 Prix Bayeux-Calvados for his coverage of the war in Syria.
Burundi has been in crisis since April when President Pierre Nkurunziza ran for a controversial third term, sparking street protests, a failed coup, regular killings and a nascent rebellion.
The government has cracked down on the press, forcing independent media to shut down and driving some journalists into exile.