Burundi | Freedom House

Freedom of the Press

Burundi

Burundi

Freedom of the Press 2005

2005 Scores

Press Status

Not Free

Press Freedom Score
(0 = best, 100 = worst)

74

Political Environment
(0 = best, 40 = worst)

29

Economic Environment
(0 = best, 30 = worst)

24

Although the transitional constitution provides for freedom of expression, 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." In addition, a media law enacted in November 2003 provides for fines and prison terms of up to five years for the dissemination of information that insults the president or is defamatory or injurious to any public or private individual. However, the law also abolished the requirement that newspapers submit articles to the authorities for prepublication review. The state-run National Communication Council (NCC), which is charged with regulating the media, occasionally bans or suspends independent publications and restricts permissible reporting. The political situation stabilized somewhat with the demobilization and disarmament of thousands of soldiers and former rebels in late 2004. Although a variety of political views are tolerated and the opposition press does function sporadically, reporters remain vulnerable to official harassment, detention, and violence, and many practice self-censorship. Newspapers have occasionally been forced to close for brief periods.

Readership is limited by low literacy levels, and radio is the primary source of information for many Burundians. The government owns and operates the main broadcast media as well as the country's only regularly published newspaper, Le Renouveau; political coverage at these outlets remains strongly pro-government. However, the BBC World Service, Radio France Internationale, and the Voice of America are available on FM in Bujumbura, and Internet access is not restricted. Private publications and radio stations function sporadically, but some, such as Radio Publique Africaine (RPA), manage to present diverse and balanced views. In October, the NCC refused to permit RPA to set up a community-based station in the northern province of Ngozi, calling it "illegal." The council also reprimanded several radio stations and suspended the news agency AGINFO for seven days over dispatches that it said disturbed the peace and could incite ethnic hatred.