29 March 2019

Burundi Revokes BBC's Permit, Extends Ban On VOA

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(file photo)

Burundi has declined to lift a ban on the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and Voice of America (VOA) services.

The two international media houses were suspended last May for a period of six months, just two weeks before the constitutional amendment referendum to extend presidential terms and powers.

The media regulator, the National Communication Council (CNC), accused BBC of broadcasting content that "put national cohesion and reconciliation at stake," while VOA was banned for partnering with some local media houses that had been shut down in 2015.

"The CNC has decided to withdraw the operating licence for BBC... and VOA programmes will still be suspended until further notice," said Nestor Bankumukunzi, the chairman of CNC on Friday.

"All Burundian and foreign journalists who are in the country are forbidden from reporting or giving information directly or indirectly to the BBC and VOA," Mr Bankumukunzi added.

When the suspension was first announced in May, journalists from the two stations had been allowed to continue working.

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Last December, BBC Africa Eye aired an investigative 23-minute documentary, dubbed Inside the Secret Killing House, that documented the killing and torture of opposition members by security forces in secret detention facilities.

The documentary, incensed the government, leading to the decision to withdraw BBC's licence.

The US-government funded VOA's ban was extended for continuing to work with Patrick Nduwimana, a Swahili journalist who has an arrest warrant issued against him, Mr Bankumukunzi said.

Mr Nduwimana is accused by the government of participating in the 2015 failed coup.

In 2014, the BBC also had its broadcasts suspended indefinitely in Rwanda for airing a documentary, The Untold Story, that questioned the official accounts of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.

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