Broadcasts from the BBC and VoA have been stopped in Burundi, two weeks before the country votes in a referendum that could see the president’s rule extended for over a decade. At the same time, Radio France Internationale has been warned against broadcasting remarks that are “untruthful and partisan”.
On 4 May, a statement was issued by the country’s media regulator, the National Communication Council, stating: “The international radios, ‘BBC London’ and ‘Voice of America ‘VOA’ have been suspended from broadcasting throughout the Burundi territory for six months starting on 7 May 2018 for breaching laws regulating the media and unethical conduct.”
“We are dismayed by the actions taken today by the Burundi National Communications Council to ban VOA from broadcasting its news and information programs,” said VOA director Amanda Bennett.
According to Human Rights Watch, Burundi enjoyed one of the most independent media environments in the region. When President Pierre Nkurunziza (pictured) – who has been in power since 2005 – announced his bid for a third term in 2015, there was a significant tightening of restrictions on the media. Today, the World Press Freedom Index ranks Burundi at position 159 of 180 countries in the press freedom index.
BBC World Service programmes have been carried on its local FM relays in Burundi until the crackdown: Bujumbura on 90.2MHz and Mount Manga on 105.6MHz. VoA also has two local FM relays in the country.