Freedom of the Press 2009 - Burundi
|Publication Date||1 May 2009|
|Cite as||Freedom House, Freedom of the Press 2009 - Burundi, 1 May 2009, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4b27421e2c.html [accessed 23 May 2015]|
Status: Not Free
Legal Environment: 21 (of 30)
Political Environment: 30 (of 40)
Economic Environment: 24 (of 30)
Total Score: 75 (of 100)
(Lower scores = freer)
Covers events that took place between January 1, 2008, and December 31, 2008.
The constitution provides for freedom of expression, but this right is rarely respected in practice.
Current media legislation is often vague about the offenses for which a journalist may be charged. For example, the 1997 Press Law forbids the dissemination of "information inciting civil disobedience or serving as propaganda for enemies of the Burundian nation during a time of war." The November 2003 Media Law provides for harsh fines and prison terms of up to five years for the dissemination of information that insults the president or is defamatory toward other individuals. Legislation proposed in 2006 would more accurately define the responsibilities and limitations of journalists, but no progress on this legislation has been made.
One journalist was imprisoned in 2008. Jean Claude Kavumbagu, the editor of the online Net Press, was arrested and jailed on charges of defamation after reporting about the president's extravagant spending during an August visit to China. Kavumbagu was being held in pretrial detention at the end of the year.
Journalists who criticize the government are regularly harassed and intimidated. In February, the offices of the private radio station Radio Publique Africaine (RPA) were raided by a government-affiliated militia, which apparently intended to curb the station's reporting on government corruption. Also during the year, the National Communications Council interrogated RPA's director and forced the station to apologize for a report criticizing government officials. Separately, a human rights activist was detained and interrogated for giving journalists information that was critical of the government.
Cecile Ndikumana, a sales representative for the state-owned Radio-Television Nationale du Burundi, was murdered on her way home in May. It is unclear whether the attack was related to her work.
The government dominates Burundi's media industry. It owns Le Renouveau, the only daily newspaper, as well as the major broadcast media outlets, National Radio and Television of Burundi.
There are eight private newspapers that are able to publish on a weekly basis, but they are hampered by financial and infrastructural constraints. Two private television and nine private radio stations operate in the country. The growth of private media has been held back by high licensing fees.
There are no apparent government restrictions on internet access, although the National Communications Council bars websites from "posting documents or other statements by political organizations that disseminate hate or violence." Owing to economic and infrastructural limitations, less than 1 percent of the population accessed the internet in 2008.