- Burundi has banned the BBC and suspended the Voice of America indefinitely
- The country’s media regulator accused the BBC of airing a false documentary and accused the VOA of employing a reporter who opposed the government
- Journalists have also been banned from working for either organization
- Burundi ranks 159th out of 180 countries on the World Press Freedom Index 2018
In a move which has been described by campaigners and international broadcasters as ‘a blow to press freedom’, Burundi has banned the BBC and suspended the Voice of America indefinitely.
The BBC, whose license was revoked, was accused by Burundi’s media regulator of airing a false documentary which it said damaged the country’s reputation, Reuters reports.
Legit.ng gathers that the country’s media regulator accused the VOA of employing a reporter who opposed the government, as it extended an existing suspension on the media organization.
In the run-up to a referendum that opposition politicians and activists said was designed to extend the president’s rule for at least a decade, both broadcasters were initially suspended for six months in May 2018.
At the time, the BBC and VOA were accused of unprofessional conduct and breaching press laws. Since then, they’ve both been off air.
In a statement, the BBC said: “The unwarranted decision of the Burundi government to ban the BBC and suspend indefinitely, Voice of America, strikes a serious blow against media freedom, and we strongly condemn it.”
In 2018, the BBC had aired a documentary about what it said were secret detention and torture sites in Burundi. The report was subsequently dismissed by the Burundian government; however, the BBC said it stood by its journalism.
Journalists were also banned from working for either organization by the country’s media regulator.
Reacting to the development, VOA director, Amanda Bennett, said: “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.”
Amnesty International’s Sarah Jackson also reacted to the development, saying: “The withdrawal of the BBC’s operating license and continued suspension of the VOA are further brazen efforts by the Burundian authorities to silence the media.”
On the World Press Freedom Index 2018 compiled by the advocacy group, Reporters Without Borders, Burundi ranks 159th out of 180 countries.
Since the country’s president, Pierre Nkurunziza, announced in 2015 that he would run for a third term, hundreds of Burundians have been killed in clashes with security forces and half a million have fled abroad. Nkurunziza eventually won re-election.
The 2018 referendum overwhelmingly approved changes that could let Nkurunziza remain in power till 2034. The result was, however, rejected by the opposition and the US said the process was marred by voter intimidation.
Meanwhile, Legit.ng previously reported that President Pierre Nkurunziza of Burundi imprisoned two officials after he was allegedly roughed up in a football match they organized.
Nkurunziza is claimed to be a born again Christian who spends most of his time with his owned side, Haleluya FC, and also travels with his own choir, Komeza gusenga, which means pray non-stop, in the local Kirundi language.
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