|MARCH 4, 2003|
All Radio Stations
Burundian president Pierre Buyoya ordered the country's private radio stations not to broadcast interviews with or statements from two rebel groups that have continued to fight the government amid negotiations to end the country's 9-year-old civil war.
Buyoya called the editors of Burundi's leading radio stationsincluding African Public Radio, Radio Bonesha, and Radio Isanganiroto his office and told them they were forbidden to broadcast interviews with or paraphrase statements from members of the National Liberation Force (FNL) and the Forces for the Defense of Democracy (FDD). According to The Associated Press, the stations later aired news of the order even though Buyoya had told the editors not to report on the ban.
The FNL is the only major ethnic Hutu rebel group that has not signed a cease-fire accord with Buyoya's transitional government, which was inaugurated in November 2001. Though the FDD signed a peace agreement with the government in December 2002, fighting between FDD forces and the army has continued.
According to Umuco, a local private Internet news service, Buyoya acknowledged that the ban was "unfortunate" but said that it was unacceptable for rebels who continue to kill to have access to the airwaves. Buyoya asked that the new measure be observed until a definitive cease-fire accord is signed. The government usually allows interviews with members of groups that have signed peace agreements, local sources told CPJ. It is unclear what sanctions stations that violate the ban will face.
SEPTEMBER 13, 2003
The Burundian government issued an order closing the popular private radio station Radio Isanganiro after it aired a debate featuring Pasteur Habimana, a spokesman for the rebel National Liberation Forces, during its talk show "Mosaïque" (Mosaic). The program, which dealt with the peace process, was aired after the latest round of talks between President Domitien Ndayizeye and leaders of another rebel movement, the Forces for the Defense of Democracy, were delayed, local journalists told CPJ.
Several hours after the broadcast, Radio Isanganiro received a letter from Communications Minister Albert Mbonerane ordering the station closed for seven days, according to journalists at the station. Radio Isanganiro ceased all broadcasts at 3 p.m. that day. The letter accused the radio station of "endangering national unity" by allowing Habimana to speak on air and said that authorities had previously forbidden Burundian media outlets from defaming the government while it is trying to obtain a permanent country-wide cease-fire.
Following the ban, private radio stations BONESHA FM, Radio Publique Africaine, and CCIB FM announced that they would refuse to publish any government news or statements for the duration of Radio Isanganiro's closure.
On September 18, the government's National Communication Council shortened the ban to five days, effectively lifting it immediately. Local journalists told CPJ that the radio station began broadcasting the next morning.
SEPTEMBER 16, 2003
Radio Publique Africaine
Authorities closed Radio Publique Africaine (RPA) indefinitely only days after closing another station, Radio Isanganiro. The shutdown of RPA came after the station broadcast an interview with a rebel spokesman.
On September 13, Radio Isanganiro was ordered closed for one week for airing a discussion on the ongoing Burundian peace process. The broadcast featured Pasteur Habimana, a spokesman for the National Liberation Forces, the only major ethnic Hutu rebel group that has not signed a cease-fire accord with the government.
On September 16, RPA broadcast a series of telephone interviews focusing on the closure of Radio Isanganiro, according to journalists at RPA. During the program, RPA called Habimana and asked for his reaction. Journalists at RPA told CPJ that Habimana apologized for causing the ban and also commented on the collapse of peace talks between the government and another major rebel group, the Forces for the Defense of Democracy.
Journalists at RPA said that at 6 p.m. that day, the station received a letter from Communications Minister Albert Mbonerane ordering the station closed "for an indefinite period," effective 7 p.m. Before going off the air, the station broadcast parts of the minister's letter, which accused RPA of "violating Article 44 of the Press Law by vilifying the government and disseminating propaganda of the country's enemy." The letter also said that authorities had warned radio stations not to broadcast "inflammatory statements against the government, which is trying to obtain a global and permanent cease-fire," a sentence also contained in the letter received by Radio Isanganiro.
On September 19, the Ministry of Communications lifted the ban on RPA, a decision that was broadcast by state media and communicated to the station in writing. Journalists at RPA told CPJ that the radio station began broadcasting again on September 20.