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

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

Frustrated, Liberian Students Want Ebola Fight Role

Thousands have volunteered to go to counties, rural villages to talk to people in their language about deadly virus More

Secret Service Head: Breach 'Will Never Happen Again'

update Julia Pierson answers questions about the latest break-in well as several other embarrassing incidents involving the agency 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.
Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenyai
X
Gabe Joselow
September 29, 2014 6:20 PM
Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Video

Video Reconstruction? What Reconstruction? Life After War in Gaza

It’s been a month since Israel and the Palestinians agreed to a ceasefire to end 52 days of an air and tank war that left 60,000 homes in Gaza damaged or destroyed and 110,000 homeless. Sharon Behn reports that lack of reconstruction is leading to despair.
Video

Video US, Saudi Arabia and UAE Hit Islamic State's Oil Revenue

The United States, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have bombed oil facilities operated by Islamic State militants in Syria. It was a truly collaborative effort, with the two Arab countries dropping the majority of the bombs. The 12 refineries targeted were estimated to generate as much as $2 million per day for the terrorist group. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb has the story.
Video

Video Russia's Food Sanctions Raise Price Worries, Hopes for Domestic Production

Russia retaliated against Western sanctions imposed for its actions in Ukraine by halting food imports from the West. The temporary import ban on food from Australia, the European Union, Norway and North America has Russian consumers concerned that they could face a sharp increase in food prices. But in an ironic twist, the restrictions aimed at the Kremlin have made Russia's domestic food producers hopeful this can boost their business. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Washington to Pyongyang: 'Shut This Evil System Down'

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is calling on North Korea to shut down prison camps and other human rights abuses following a United Nations Commission of Inquiry into "widespread and systematic human rights violations." VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid