News / Africa

Rights Group Says Press Freedom at Risk in Burundi

Human Rights Watch says the government of Burundi has been intensifying pressure on journalists.  The group says reporters have been threatened with legal action for reports implicating state authorities in recent acts of violence.  

On September 18 of this year, gunmen burst into a bar in the town of Gatumba, ordered the customers inside to get down on the floor, and then opened fire.  Nearly 40 people were killed.

Immediately after the incident, now referred to as the “Gatumba Massacre,” Burundi's government ordered a 30-day media ban, barring journalists from reporting on the event while investigations were underway.

When the 30-day blackout ended, a few media organizations began reporting on the massacre.

Carina Tertsakian, a senior researcher for Human Rights Watch, says there was one report in particular that seemed to strike a nerve.

“I think one of the aspects that particularly upset the government was that the radio station broadcast an interview with one of the suspects accused of involvement in the Gatumba massacre, a man who is currently in prison.  And he was interviewed and he stated that members of the security forces and intelligence services may have been involved - not necessarily in the massacre itself - but in events that led up to the massacre,” Tertsakian said.

Earlier this month, Burundi's National Security Council released a statement warning the media that by citing a defendant in the case, they are in violation of the country's criminal code.

Bob Rugurika is the editor in chief of Radio Publique Africaine (RPA), the station that broadcast the interview implicating state agents in the Gatumba shooting.

He and a colleague were interrogated by police for 10 hours because of the interview.

"They said that we should be punished with five years in prison.  It was terrible, it was somehow unimaginable.  But with advocates we have been able to show that the law permits that here in Burundi,” Rugurika said.

The interrogations go beyond the massacre.  Police have also questioned Rugurika and another RPA journalist about their reporting on a police raid on a university last month in which two students were killed.

Overall, he has been interrogated eight times in the past four months.

“We are feeling persecuted, we are feeling in danger.  Here, the police, and some agents of the intelligence service are somehow brutal.  Sometimes they kill, sometimes they arrest with no respect of law,” Rugurika said.

We have attempted to contact Burundian government officials for this story. The officials could not be reached for comment.

Tertsakian, of Human Rights Watch, says the recent crackdown on journalists in Burundi is part of a broader pattern of harassment of the media.

“What is happening is that the government does not seem to respect the role of the independent media to report on these things.  Instead, they often equate these radio stations with the political opposition.  So they've often accused journalists and even human rights organizations of being part of the political opposition,” Tertsakian said.

Burundi launched its own inquiry into the Gatumba massacre in September.  Twenty-one suspects are on trial, with proceedings set to resume on December 1.

Burundi has been relatively peaceful since a rebel group called the Forces for National Liberation laid down its arms in 2009 after 20 years of war.

You May Like

Video Experts Warn World Losing Ebola Fight

Doctors Without Borders says world is losing battle against Ebola, unless wealthy nations dispatch specialized biological disaster response teams More

Video Experts: Rise of Islamic State Significant Development in Jihadism

Many analysts contend the group - which grew out of al-Qaida in Iraq - has been rebuilding for years More

US-Based Hong Kongers Pledge Support for Pro-Democracy Activists

Democracy advocates call on Chinese living abroad to join them in opposing new election rules for their home territory More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Larger Than Life Chinese Lanterns Make Southern California Appearancei
X
Elizabeth Lee
September 02, 2014 8:57 PM
Chinese lanterns with a long history are lighting up in 21st century style at the Los Angeles County Fair in southern California. Visitors can see traditional lanterns that hang, but also lanterns in the shape of animals, iconic landmarks and many other objects, all created by artisans from a place in China known for its lanterns. Elizabeth Lee has the details from the fair in the city of Pomona.
Video

Video Larger Than Life Chinese Lanterns Make Southern California Appearance

Chinese lanterns with a long history are lighting up in 21st century style at the Los Angeles County Fair in southern California. Visitors can see traditional lanterns that hang, but also lanterns in the shape of animals, iconic landmarks and many other objects, all created by artisans from a place in China known for its lanterns. Elizabeth Lee has the details from the fair in the city of Pomona.
Video

Video Experts See Rise of ISIS as Significant Development

The Islamic State’s rise seems sudden. It caught the U.S. by surprise this summer when it captured large portions of northern Iraq and spread its wings in neighboring Syria. But many analysts contend that the group - which grew out of al-Qaida in Iraq - has been rebuilding for years. VOA's Jela de Franceschi takes a closer look at the rise of ISIS and its implications for the Middle East and beyond.
Video

Video Israel Concerned Over Syrian Rebels in Golan

Israeli officials are following with concern the recent fighting between Syrian rebels and government forces near the contested Golan Heights. Forty-four U.N. peacekeepers from Fiji have been seized by Syrian Islamist rebels and the clashes occasionally have spilled into Israel. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forces

A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video US Detainees Want Negotiators for Freedom in North Korea

The three U.S. detainees held in North Korea were permitted to speak with foreign media Monday. The government of Kim Jong Un restricted the topics of the questions, and the interviews in Pyongyang were limited to five minutes. Each of the men asked Washington to send a representative to Pyongyang to secure his release. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti has our story.
Video

Video Turkmen From Amerli Describe Survival of IS Siege

Over the past few weeks, hundreds of Shi'ite Turkmen have fled the town of Amerli seeking refuge in the northern city of Kirkuk. Despite recent military gains after U.S. airstrikes that were coordinated with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, the situation remains dire for Amerli’s residents. Sebastian Meyer went to Kirkuk for VOA to speak to those who managed to escape.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.

AppleAndroid