Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is outraged by the Burundian government’s barely veiled threat against a visiting French radio journalist, the latest escalation in attacks on freedom of information in a country that is spiralling ever deeper into political violence and confusion.
In a 4 January press release, the public security minister attacked the “customary accursed reporting” by Sonia Rolley, a Radio France Internationale journalist who arrived in Burundi two weeks ago, and accused her of broadcasting “inflammatory false information” and fabricating interviews.
Rolley’s reporting has included coverage of the systematic use of rape during police raids.
In a barely veiled threat, the communiqué ended by saying, “the authorized government services will take the necessary measures to deal with this journalist’s disruptive activities.”
“It is absolutely outrageous that a government minister should make such threats against a journalist known for the quality of her reporting,” said Cléa Kahn-Sriber, the head of RSF’s Africa desk.
“On the one hand, President Pierre Nkurunziza makes fine-sounding announcements and talks about reopening certain media outlets. On the other, he allows officials to continue intimidating journalists and censor the few scraps of information emerging from the current chaos. The government is violating not only the right of journalists to do their work but also the Burundian public’s right to know what is going on in their country.”
Burundi is ranked 145th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2015 press freedom index, which covered events in 2014. The arbitrary closure of news media and persecution of journalists accompanying the political crisis that erupted in 2015 means that Burundi is unlikely to hold this position in the next press freedom index.
More information about the crisis in Burundi here.