WASHINGTON —Burundi will continue to block broadcasts from two international media organizations and expand restrictions on their operations, the government announced Friday.
At a meeting in Bujumbura, the president of the National Council of Communication, Nestor Bankumukunzi, said the British Broadcasting Corp. and the Voice of America are no longer allowed to broadcast, effective immediately. The ban is indefinite and extends to journalists, both foreign and domestic, who provide information to either broadcaster.
“We are alarmed that reporters in Burundi are now forbidden to communicate with VOA and believe these continuing threats to our journalists undermine press freedom in the country,” VOA Director Amanda Bennett said. “We stand with the people of Burundi against those who are restricting their access to accurate and reliable news and information.”
The BBC condemned the decision, calling it “a serious blow against media freedom.”
Last May, the Burundi government suspended both news organizations for six months, a week before holding a referendum on a new constitution. The outlets have been off the air since.[…]
Nairobi, Kenya | AFP | Burundi’s press regulator on Friday said it was suspending broadcasts by the BBC and Voice of America (VOA) by local radio stations ahead of a constitutional referendum on May 17.
The head of Burundi’s National Communications Council told journalists in the capital Bujumbura that a six-month ban would come into force on Monday.
Karenga Ramadhani accused the BBC and VOA of “breaches of the law governing the press and ethics”.
The BBC, he said, “damaged the reputation” of President Pierre Nkurunziza during a discussion programme and had “ignored” previous warnings.
Burundi’s government earlier this week urged the regulator to “take action” against the BBC which it accused of spreading “incendiary statements… hatred and subversion”.
VOA is accused of spreading “very tendentious” information and hiring a journalist “sought by Burundian justice”.
French broadcaster RFI also received a warning for disseminating “tendentious and misleading” information.[…]
Voice of America today began boosting broadcasts to Burundi where at least 14 people have been and killed and more than 200 injured in protests against President Pierre Nkurunziza running for a third term.
VOA has additional shortwave and FM broadcasts in Kirundi, Kinyarwanda, Kiswahili, French, and English with an expanded call-in show, more reporting from the ground, and new drive-time newscasts.
“At this critical moment for democracy in Burundi, we are stepping up to keep our audiences informed, “ says VOA Director David Ensor. “Voters deserve to know what is going on with presidential elections just one month away.”
The African Union and the United States say the Nkurunziza candidacy violates a regional peace deal that ended civil war in 2005. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says the president’s move “flies directly in the face of the constitution of his country.”
President Nkurunziza says he is exempt from the two-term limit because his first term was chosen by parliament.
VOA is one of the last remaining sources of news in Burundi after authorities blocked access to social media, closed Radio Publique Africane, and suspended relay transmissions for two other independently owned stations — Bonesha FM and Isanganiro.
The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns this harassment and says the Nkurunziza government is “blatantly trying to gag” coverage of its opponents.
VOA is adding reporters in Burundi and Rwanda along with additional staff in Washington D.C., where its U.S. government-funded transmissions originate.
Daily broadcasts air on 95.2 FM and 94.9 FM in Bujumbura and on 104.3 FM in Kigali.
There are new VOA shortwave broadcasts from 04:00 to 05:30 UTC and from 19:30 to 20:00 UTC on 7350 kHz, 9815 kHz, and 11905 kHz; and from 16:00 to 16:30 UTC on 13630 kHz, 15460 kHz, and 17530 kHz.
“With thousands of Burundians fleeing to neighboring Rwanda, Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo, VOA is committed to providing accurate and reliable news to this critical region,” says Ensor.
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