Burundi must stop silencing critical voices

On 29th March the Burundi government suspended the BBC World Service from operating and extended Voice of America’s (VOA) suspension. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) strongly condemns continuous violations of freedom of the press in a country where journalism is at great risk.

Burundi's President Pierre Nkurunziza

The National Communications Council (CNC)'s decision to withdraw the BBC’s operating license and extend Voice of America’s suspension until further notice follows a first suspension in May 2018 and several years of arrests and attacks against Burundian journalists.

Following the decision, the CNC has forbidden Burundian journalists to “provide, directly or indirectly, information that can be broadcast" by the BBC or VOA, sparking fears the suspensions will profoundly undermine the quality of information in Burundi given that the two broadcasters are among the country's most popular news sources. Their programmes are broadcast in French, English and Kirundi.

The IFJ has warned many times against the deterioration of press freedom in Burundi, especially since 2015 and the start of a crisis sparked by President Pierre Nkurunziza’s desire to stand for a third mandate. Burundian journalists regularly face censorship, closure or destruction of media premises, or even violence. Many of them fled the country over the past few years.

The IFJ said: “We call on the government of Burundi to immediately stop these blatant violations of press freedom and allow the BBC and Voice of America to broadcast again. All journalists must be able to report freely in Burundi and the authorities must stop silencing independent voices. We stand by our colleagues in their fight for media freedom.

The Burundian Union of Journalists (UBJ) said: "We condemn with the utmost energy these measures which prevent journalists from doing their job. We remind CNC's president Mr. Nestor Bankumukunzi that he has no authority to order anyone to work or not to work for any media. It is a shameful measure, especially when it comes from someone who is supposed to have practiced this profession. This is simply a denial of the public's right to information.”

For more information, please contact IFJ on +32 2 235 22 16

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 146 countries

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