Freedom of the Press
You are here
Press Freedom Score (0 = best, 100 = worst)
Legal Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
Political Environment(0 = best, 40 = worst)
Economic Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
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, the November 2003 Media Law 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. In June 2005, radio and online journalist Etienne Ndikuriyo was detained and charged under this law, after he reported that the president was depressed following the election results. However, the law also abolished the requirement that newspapers submit articles to the authorities for prepublication review and provides for the protection of sources. The state-run National Communication Council (NCC), which is charged with regulating the media, occasionally bans or suspends independent publications and restricts permissible reporting. In February, NetPress, a private news sheet, was banned for a week under accusations of libel concerning an article in which the paper charged the head of the National Commission for Rehabilitation of War Victims with diverting food aid from people in need.
The political situation for the media stabilized somewhat in 2005 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. Because of the elections, 2005 appeared to be a particularly sensitive year. Radio Publique Africaine (RPA) was prevented from reporting regionally when the NCC ordered it to close for two days, accusing it of "offending public morals" and threatening public security by reporting on the rape of an eight-year-old girl. In July, the station was shut down again for several days because of allegedly biased coverage of the June municipal and parliamentary elections.
Burundi's only daily newspaper, Le Renouveau, is controlled by the government, while six private publications operate on a weekly basis. Readership of the print press is limited by low literacy levels, making radio the primary source of information for many Burundians. The government owns and operates the main broadcast media, including the nation's sole television station and the only radio station that broadcasts nationwide. Political coverage at these outlets remains strongly pro-government. Private radio stations operate irregularly, but some like RPA manage to present diverse and balanced views. The BBC, Radio France Internationale, and Voice of America are all available in Bujumbura. No restrictions to internet access are apparent, though the NCC bans websites from "posting documents or other statements by political organizations that disseminate hate or violence."