New York, June 12, 2015--A Rwandan journalist who was arrested in Burundi on Monday has been charged with espionage, according to news reports. The Committee to Protect Journalists calls on Burundian authorities to release the journalist and drop the charge immediately.
New York May 15, 2015--The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns a series of attacks on Burundian news outlets and calls on all sides in the unrest to refrain from attacking or threatening journalists. In recent days, at least five radio stations were attacked during violence over an attempted coup in the capital, Bujumbura, and threats were made against a newspaper which caused it to stop publishing, according to reports.
Nairobi, April 29, 2015--The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the harassment of journalists and news outlets in Burundi and calls on authorities to allow them to cover protests ahead of scheduled elections in May and June. Police cut the transmission of at least three radio stations, and telecommunications companies have been ordered to suspend mobile access to social media, according to news reports and local journalists.
Nairobi, January 21, 2015--Burundian authorities imprisoned the director of the privately owned Radio Publique Africaine on Tuesday and charged him with complicity in murder, according to news reports. The arrest followed the station's broadcast of an interview in which an unidentified guest said he was involved in the September murder of three Italian nuns, news reports said.
If the state decides that a journalist's article in Burundi jeopardizes someone's "moral integrity" under the country's Media Law it can demand that the journalist reveals sources, and it can suspend the publication. "It's a backwards, freedom-killing law," said Alexandre Niyungeko, the founder and head of the 300-member Burundi Union of Journalists. Despite the press fraternity's best efforts, including an appeal replete with 15,000 signatures from organizations, including the Committee to Protect Journalists, urging the president to desist from signing it, President Pierre Nkurunziza passed the bill into law on June 4, 2013.
Calls for journalists to exercise a sense of responsibility are very often code for censorship. Yet unethical journalism can also imperil the press. By Jean-Paul Marthoz
Burundi's climate of press freedom deteriorated under President Pierre Nkurunziza in 2013. In June, the president signed into law a severely restrictive bill that forces journalists to reveal sources and places heavy fines and prison sentences on coverage the government considers detrimental to state security or the local economy. In April, CPJ wrote an open letter to the president, calling the law an "affront to the Burundi Constitution," and highlighting specific articles especially restrictive for journalists. Several journalists were attacked over the year, some by police officers attempting to quell a weekly protest by reporters calling for the release of their imprisoned colleague, Bonesha FM correspondent Hassan Ruvakuki. In March, Ruvakuki was released from prison with no explanation. He had been sentenced to prison in November 2011 for "participating with a criminal group" and spent 463 days in jail.
The African Union's special rapporteur on freedom of expression and access to information, Commissioner Pansy Tlakula, has launched an auspicious initiative in East Africa to counter criminal defamation and sedition laws. Since independence, authorities and business interests in the East and Horn region have used criminal laws on sedition, libel, and insult--often relics of former, colonial administrations--to silence their critics in the press. "Criminal defamation laws are nearly always used to punish legitimate criticism of powerful people, rather than protect the right to a reputation," Tlakula said in a statement.
Do you believe the free flow of information must be protected? Sign the #RightToReport petition and demand that President Obama immediately:
1. Issue a presidential policy directive prohibiting the hacking and surveillance of journalists and media organizations.
2. Limit aggressive prosecutions that ensnare journalists and intimidate whistleblowers.
3. Prevent the harassment of journalists at the U.S. border.
Or click here to see the full petition, and join leading journalists like Christiane Amanpour, The Guardian’s Alan Rusbridger, Editor of the AP Kathleen Carroll, and Arianna Huffington in signing on.