Paris (AFP) - Burundi journalist Esdras Ndikumana, the AFP and Radio France Internationale correspondent who was forced to flee last year, was awarded the 2015 French diplomatic press prize on Monday for his work covering the troubled country.
Ndikumana, 54, who sought refuge in Kenya and is the first foreigner to be awarded the prize, won it for "his courage and will to inform", French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said.
The award is also "a message of support to all your Burundian and African colleagues who carry out exemplary work", Fabius added.
Ndikumana, who covered events in the central African country from 2001 for AFP and 2002 for RFI, fled in August after being badly beaten following his arrest during the violent political crisis.
He was taking pictures at the spot where a general was assassinated in the capital Bujumbura on August 2 when he was detained by members of the National Intelligence Service (SNR).
He was held for around two hours, during which he was subjected to severe beatings on his back, legs and the soles of his feet, and was hospitalised following the ordeal.
AFP and RFI have filed a protest with the authorities in Burundi.
Ndikumana said at the awards ceremony that he was dedicating the prize to his colleagues.
"Burundi used to be one of Africa's most press-friendly nations. But since the crisis this has crumbled, with 80 percent of independent journalists fleeing the country and freedoms completely restricted."
AFP Global News Editor Michele Leridon said the news agency hoped that "Esdras can return to Burundi as soon as possible to do his job and relate the dramatic events taking place there."
"We are still waiting for the Burundi authorities to clearly establish who was responsible for the attack against him," she added.
Burundi was plunged into crisis at the end of April when President Pierre Nkurunziza announced he was running for a controversial third term, which the opposition said violated the constitution as well as a peace deal that ended the country's civil war in 2006.
The unrest has intensified since his re-election in July, with political assassinations on both sides, attacks against the police and summary executions.