Reporters Without Borders is astonished that the National Council for Communication (CNC), the media regulatory body, has ignored a joint letter it received on 8 June from local human rights and journalists’ organisations that condemned the very disturbing tone of pro-government Rema FM’s broadcasts in the tense run-up to the 28 June presidential election.
“We are surprised by the CNC’s silence in response to the alert that it was sent by local journalists’ organisations,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Their request should be taken seriously as the content of Rema FM’s broadcasts is grave and comparable to that of a hate media.”
The press freedom organisation added: “Burundi is experiencing a period of instability marked by significant political unrest. The media regulatory body therefore has a duty to react and to severely sanction those responsible for these broadcasts.”
Some of the privately-owned station’s broadcasts have contained very aggressive comments in the past few weeks. Reporters Without Borders has obtained recordings of some of these broadcasts. Here are some extracts:
“The opposition political parties in Burundi are trying to destabilise the country and stir up the population,” a presenter said on 6 June. “They have no proof of the electoral fraud they are denouncing. They must stop denigrating the population, which continues to be the great judge of these elections.” The presenter then gave the names and addresses of people identified as members of the opposition.
“Burundians had better keep their wits about them amid this criminal enterprise in order to avoid falling into the same disaster as in the past (...) A word to the wise is enough.”
“The opposition parties seem to be getting ready to disrupt security by using their youth movements (...) The start of their dirty work has seen set for next Monday, 7 June.”
In a broadcast on 8 June, the station’s journalists directly targeted the recently expelled Human Rights Watch representative in Burundi, accusing her of manipulating opposition leaders. “Human Rights Watch is represented in just one ubiquitous woman, who does not intend to let up in her schemes to implicate the leaders of the Burundian army and police in murders committed in our country (...) She does not intended to let up in her campaign of demonization (...) and is manipulating local NGO representatives and political opposition leaders (...) We must keep an eye on this matter.”
The current political situation is extremely tense. President Pierre Nkurunziza is now the only candidate in the 28 June election as the 13 opposition candidates withdrew after claiming that the 24 May municipal elections were marred by irregularities. See the previous release .
Jean Ping, the chairperson of the African Union Commission, yesterday voiced concern about the recent political developments in Burundi while UN independent expert Akich Okola today said he feared that the presidential election could result in more human rights violations.