Le Monde journalists arrested
French national Jean-Philippe Rémy (left) and British photographer Philip Edward Moore are still detained at Burundi's intelligence servicesTwitter/Le Monde

International news agency AFP slammed the arrest of the two journalists detained in Burundi, who were released safely on Friday (29 January) afternoon by the regime.

Frenchman Jean-Philippe Rémy, 49, who is Africa correspondent for Le Monde, was working with 34-year-old Philip Edward Moore, a British freelance photographer who works regularly for AFP, when they were arrested "while carrying out their mission to inform".

"Phil Moore and Jean Philippe Remy have been released," the Foreign Correspondents' Association of East Africa (FCAEA) said in a statement. "This is a big relief of course, but the incident bodes ill for our work in Burundi."

According to local sources, the pair's press accreditations have been cancelled and their mobile phones have been confiscated by police. These arrests come in the context of grave government repression against journalists, with all the main Burundian private radio stations suspended since May 2015.

Watch: IBTimes UK's video series Burundi's Journalists in danger Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

AFP: 'No justification for their arrest'

"There is no justification for the arrest of these two experienced reporters who are widely respected in their profession," AFP's chairman Emmanuel Hoog said earlier in a letter addressed to President Pierre Nkurunziza.

"We ask you, Mr President, to immediately intervene (...) to take all the necessary steps to ensure their safety".

The pair were arrested on Thursday (28 January 2016) afternoon in Bujumbura by security forces of the BAE (Anti Riot Squad) as the two journalists were meeting opponents to the regime. Presidency adviser Willy Nyamitwe publicly confirmed their arrest.

Journalists still detained

Radio France Internationale (RFI) reported that the French ambassador, Gerrit van Rossum, had visited and met the journalists in detention on Friday. Quoting sources close to the matter, RFI said the journalists would soon be heard by the prosecutor.

Last October, AFP and RFI filed a complaint against "persons unknown" over the torture of their Burundi correspondent Esdras Ndikumana, who was forced into exile after being beaten in detention in August 2015. Ndikumana has testified against the country's secret services, who he claims beat him hundred of times with iron bars and clubs.

Hoog repeated his call that Nkurunziza "provide the security guarantees that would allow Ndikumana to return to his country to do his work of reporting the news".