Freedom of the Press
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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)
Burundi’s media environment was slightly more open in 2007 than the previous year, when authorities severely cracked down on media outlets critical of its policies, although the government continues to dominate the media and does not tolerate criticism of the president. While the constitution provides for freedom of expression, this right is rarely respected in practice; much of the current media legislation is 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 also 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. In 2006, legislation was proposed that would more accurately define the responsibilities and limitations of journalists, but no progress on this legislation was made in 2007.
Unlike in 2006, when Burundi was ranked as Africa’s third leading jailer of journalists by the Committee to Protect Journalists, in 2007 there were no reports that authorities detained or arrested journalists for criticizing the administration. In fact, in January, a court acquitted two journalists with the privately owned Radio Publique Africaine (RPA), Serge Nibizi and Domitile Kiramvu, and the director of Radio Isanganiro, Matthias Manirakiza, who were arrested in November 2006 and charged with “violating state secrecy” for publishing information about an alleged coup. All three journalists were imprisoned through the end of last year. Also in contrast to 2006, there were no reports of journalists being harassed or arrested for critical comments about the authorities. Nonetheless, the events of 2006 created a considerable amount of fear within the private media, causing many journalists to self-censor. Furthermore, in October, authorities in Bujumbura detained Emmanuel Nsabimana, RPA’s director, for approximately four hours following a broadcast about a sexual harassment incident involving a Protestant minister.
The government dominates Burundi’s media industry; it owns Le Renouveau, the country’s only daily newspaper, as well as the only television station and the sole national radio station. There are six private newspapers that are able to publish on a weekly basis, but they are generally restricted to the Bujumbura area because of financial and infrastructure constraints. The ownership of private radio stations tends to be highly concentrated, but some, like RPA, are still able to provide diverse and balanced coverage. There are no apparent government restrictions on internet access, although the National Communication Council bans websites from “posting documents or other statements by political organizations that disseminate hate or violence.” Owing to economic and infrastructure limitations, less than 1 percent of the population accessed the internet in 2007.