Letters   |   Burundi

Burundi: Defense minister threatens journalists covering Hutu rebel insurgency

September 10, 1999

His Excellency Major Pierre Buyoya
Presidence de la Republique
P.O. Box 1870
Bujumbura, Burundi


Your Excellency,

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is appalled to learn that your government has ordered the Burundian army to treat journalists as legitimate military targets.

On September 9, Your Excellency's Defense Minister, Colonel Alfred Nkurunziza, said in a speech broadcast on state radio that the army should consider all journalists as enemies, and therefore legitimate targets, if they entered the Bujumbura Rurale province near the capital, where the army is fighting ethnic Hutu rebels.

Addressing his remarks to army commanders, the defense minister singled out Radio France Internationale (RFI), a Paris-based station popular in Francophone Africa, for particular criticism. According to journalists in Burundi, Colonel Nkurunziza said: "That radio (RFI)...is openly supporting the rebels. When you see journalists here you [should] consider them as enemies, as rebels."

As Your Excellency is well aware, a total of four Burundian journalists and one South African journalist have already been killed in Burundi since the outbreak of civil war in October 1993. The present threat appears to target all journalists who have been critical of Your Excellency's government. Some journalists working for international news organizations have already expressed fears that they may become targets.

As a non-partisan organization dedicated to the defense of our colleagues worldwide, CPJ considers this blatant threat against journalists to be a grave violation of the right to freedom of expression, a universal right that Your Excellency's government is legally obliged to respect under international treaties to which Burundi is a signatory.

We strongly urge Your Excellency to ensure that the Defense Minister's threats are publicly repudiated, and to guarantee all journalists in Burundi their right to report on both sides of the current conflict. We would greatly welcome Your Excellency's response in this matter.

Sincerely,

Ann K. Cooper
Executive Director





Join CPJ in Protesting Attacks on the Press in Burundi

Send a letter to:

His Excellency Major Pierre Buyoya
Presidence de la Republique
P.O. Box 1870
Bujumbura, Burundi

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