Burundi bans BBC and VOA in run-up to referendum
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns a six-month ban on local broadcasting by the BBC and Voice of America (VOA), announced by Burundi today, as intended to tighten the East African country’s gag on the media during the campaign for a referendum on controversial changes to the constitution.
The ban was announced by the National Council for Communication (CNC), which accused the BBC and VOA of “breaching professional ethics” and said broadcasting of their programmes would be forbidden within Burundi for six months beginning on 7 May. The CNC statement also contained a warning to two Burundian radio stations, Radio Isanganiro and CCIB FM, for their alleged failure to respect sourcing rules in their reporting, and accused the French broadcaster, Radio France Internationale (RFI), of “tendentious and mendacious” reporting about possible reprisals against those calling for a “no” vote in the referendum.
“Banning two major international broadcasters just days ahead of a referendum on constitutional amendments clearly indicates a desire by the Burundian authorities to censor the public debate and trample on the right to information,” said Arnaud Froger, the head of RSF’s Africa desk. “The warnings to radio stations sound like a threat. We remind the authorities that no democratic decision can be taken as long as the media are gagged.”
Burundi is ranked 159th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2018 World Press Freedom Index.