As of December 31, 1998

Almost a quarter of a million people have been casualties of Burundi's war, ongoing since 1993. It has become an almost insurmountable challenge to report on such issues as the massacres committed by both Hutu rebels and Tutsi-dominated government troops, or the flow of arms into the country that helps to sustain the fighting.

Fear of reprisals from all sides has forced many journalists to practice self-censorship, and security risks inhibit reporting from conflict areas. Reporting on press freedom violations can provoke swift reprisals.

When the news service Net-Press reported that state intelligence service agents had seized copies of the pro-opposition newspaper, L'Aube de la Démocratie, the same agents then forcibly shut down the news agency and detained its director. Privately owned newspapers rarely publish on a regular schedule, and the few that are sold are regarded by local citizens as mere propaganda sheets for political extremists.

Military dictator Maj. Pierre Buyoya's regime has waged a full-scale attack on the country's journalists, using the intelligence service as its weapon. Local journalists are outraged at Buyoya's decommissioning of the National Communication Council, a media regulatory body that is currently controlled by the special services branch of the president's office. In May, more than 50 journalists from both state and privately owned media signed a petition urging Buyoya to end his regime's escalating assaults on the press.

Radio remains the most effective means of reaching the population, especially in the countryside, and the two major stations are state-run. The European Union and the United States have funded local radio programming with the hope of discouraging the type of hate radio that promoted the genocide of earlier years.

Attacks on the Press in Burundi in 1998

3/27/98Jean Claude Kavumbagu, Net-PressHarassed
3/25/98L'Aube de la DemocratieCensored

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