30 March 2019

Burundi Bans BBC, Extends VOA Suspension

press release

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns Burundi's decision to withdraw the BBC's operating licence and extend Voice of America's suspension in a continuing media clampdown designed to silence criticism and independent reporting.

Describing a recent BBC documentary as "mendacious, slanderous and derogatory," Burundi's National Council of Communication (CNC) announced yesterday that it was rescinding the BBC's operating licence with immediate effect. Broadcast last December, the BBC Africa Eye documentary accused the Burundian security services of operating secret torture and detention sites with the aim of silencing dissent.

In the same communiqué, the CNC announced that the suspension of broadcasting by Voice of America was being extended until further notice. It accused VOA of continuing to employ a person who was "wanted in an international arrest warrant issued by the Burundian judicial authorities."

The communiqué added that all persons on Burundian soil are banned from "directly or directly communicating information that could be broadcast" by either of these two media outlets. Last May, the BBC and VOA were banned from broadcasting in Burundi for six months for "breaching professional ethics."

"This completely arbitrary decision by the CNC bears the hallmark of a continuing media clampdown whose sole aim is to silence the few media outlets that still dare to criticize the Burundian regime," said Arnaud Froger, the head of RSF's Africa desk."By penalizing two leading international media outlets whose programmes in Burundi's national language have many listeners, the regime is also sending a warning to all Burundian journalists - who already have to censor themselves - ahead of next year's presidential election."

Burundi is ranked 159th out of 180 countries in RSF"s 2018 World Press Freedom Index.

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